Praying to the Black Cat

PttBCcoveronlyPraying to the Black Cat (2010)

“Such lovely doubt in these poems. Doubt and wonderfully sudden flights into connection. These rescues are almost always simply human—a couple making love, a child drawing—as the edge here, the dread, is so humanly complex. This is simultaneously a raw and restrained book. Israeli doesn’t spew or explain but remains open to the need so consistently embodied in these poems. The title conveys his willingness to engage the symbols of ruin and treat them as a source of change. Praying to the Black Cat is a wonderful book.”

—Bob Hicok

“In the possibility of nothing—splintered relationships, paternal fears, infidelity, the historical weight of oppression and violence, hauntings, madness and familial corrosion—Henry Israeli obtains the sacred. It’s the dance of flies on a bone licked clean-white. These poems blister with strange beauties. Impeccably crafted, Praying to the Black Cat cradles a brilliantly wayward tenderness. Little mythologies, little fables—often slip through confusions that only with Israeli’s deft handling of self-destruction can leave us on the precipice of hope. Praying to the Black Cat is a luminous book. It delivers us scathed and love-filled, graceful with our wounds.”

—Alex Lemon


Didn’t I always give you our children

to eat, but alas, no good deed goes unpunished.

You licked them though they had no fur,

you licked their bald little heads.

Oh, Mickey, how could you crank

my heart round like a dachshund’s tail?

Vinyl seats never made my legs as sticky

as your endearing provocations.

You’re America’s sweetheart, Mickey,

you’re a bad boy on the lam,

a hooligan with a heart

that jumps from your shirt pocket

(oh, I remember the thumpety-thumpety-thump alright).

You’re the one I worship, Mickey,

but still you treat me like a tourist, you rub me

the wrong way, you rob me

till I’m blind, I, who burieth mein claws in thine black ass

and screameth out: money, money, money.

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