Our first Christmas as a married couple
Was also our first Christmas with a cat.
A young cat, about six months old.
An agile cat, who easily leapt
to the tops of bookcases to perch
like the queen she knew herself to be,
Peering down at her subjects, mere mortals.
A fake tree, thought the mortals, was the best choice.
We made the investment, a major one
For us, at that time, along with
One box of satin balls, a star for the top,
and a spice jar filled with ground red pepper.
I had read, you see, that sprinkling red pepper
on the branches of the Christmas tree
would deter cats from climbing said tree.
I sewed more ornaments for empty spaces.
We fluffed branches, stood the tree up
Straight and tall in the corner
of the living room. In front of the room’s only window.
Before hanging the ornaments, we sprinkled
Generous amounts of red pepper
Throughout all those blue spruce branches
We had fluffed.
And the cat, amazingly, stayed out of the tree.
For one year.
But the pepper lasts, you see.
No one mentioned this one tiny, yet gigantic, detail.
And so for the next year, and the next,
And for a few more years after that,
Enough red pepper remained to burn
My husband’s eyes as he lay under the tree,
Connecting lights and regretting our choice.
But not enough remained to deter the cat.
(Hour 18, Poetry Marathon 2020. Prompt: Write a narrative poem set during a holiday.)