Louise Glück


A dark night—the streets belong to the cats.
The cats and whatever small thing they find to kill—
The cats are fast like their ancestors in the hills
and hungry like their ancestors.

Hardly any moon. So the night’s cool—
no moon to heat it up. Summer’s on the way out
but for now there’s still plenty to hunt
though the mice are quiet, watchful like the cats.

Smell the air—a still night, a night for love.
And every once in a while a scream
rising from the street below
where the cat’s digging his teeth into the rat’s leg.

Once the rat screams, it’s dead. That scream is like a map:
it tells the cat where to find the throat. After that,
the scream’s coming from a corpse.

You’re lucky to be in love on nights like this,
still warm enough to lie naked on top of the sheets,
sweating, because it’s hard work, this love, no matter what anyone says.

The dead rats lie in the street, where the cats drop them.
Be glad you’re not on the street now,
before the street cleaners come to sweep them away. When the sun rises,
it won’t be disappointed with the world it finds
the streets will be clean for the new day and the night that follows.

Just be glad you were in bed,
where the cries of love drown out the screams of the corpses.