Mom and Dad Try to Get the Hang of the Middle Class, Part 2

by Juliana Gray

A parent who trusts a ten-year-old, a child
who’s never owned a cat, to pick a male
from a litter of kittens, has only himself to blame

when grown-up Whiskers delivers “his” own brood.
And what do we call those same parents when
they allow the child to select a son of Whiskers,

which drops “his” own mewling litter in turn?
There are words for that. One is “cheap.”
They weren’t raised to spend good money

on animals. Once a year they’d drive
to the vet clinic in a church parking lot;
techs leaned through open car windows

to vaccinate our trembling, unspayed cats
for rabies and distemper while I held them.
What money my parents had, they spent badly,

Dad driving up to Atlanta to buy
a $500 CD player,
its changer built to hold four discs

at a time, which sounded, Dad said, like life.
Mom determined on a sectional sofa
pale and big as an  L in the HOLLYWOOD sign.

When the thing was delivered, how angrily she cried,
seeing how the overstuffed whale
refused to curve itself into the den

of our split-level ranch. Dad would cruise
the neighborhoods around the country club,
lobbing kittens onto chemical lawns.


Juliana Gray’s third poetry collection, Honeymoon Palsy, was published by Measure Press in 2017. Recent poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from The Chattahoochee Review, NELLE, The Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere. An Alabama native, Juliana lives in western New York and teaches at Alfred University.