Two Long Tails

Cherry blossoms flutter windblown and free
Old Mochi sleeps, long white tail over
Orange and black ears
Furry laziness
A ball of memories
Kitten days and feathers and fish kites
Lanterns lighting rooms behind shoji screens
Batting at moths until he gave up
Lying next to his mistress
Her door never shut to him

Until the man comes
Mochi chases moths and finds
His way barred, angry voices answering his
Cries for entrance
He sleeps in the hall
His mistress busy, the man with her
A man who smells
Of bobtailed cats and anger
Of nori-wrapped maki and
A disappointed wife crying on his shoulder
Begging him
Not to leave her for the night

Mochi growls himself awake
In the hallway again
Banished for the last time
His long and sleek tail
Splits into two as he hisses and spits
The man leaves, striding over mats
Not noticing anything as Amaterasu guides
The sun into place

Mochi stalks, hiding in shadows
Until he pounces on prey
More deadly than a moth
Nekomata, the man screams
His katana out to kill the devil cat
Steel against claws
The outcome seems assured yet it is
Mochi who walks away
His tail one again
But puffed and wild, his eyes black pearls
Blood beneath his claws

Behind lantern-lit shoji his mistress
Plays a shamsen made of cat-skin
Practicing for the man who never comes now
Crying into her kimono sleeve, her sorrow salty
Mochi is faithful, never leaves her
Forgiving how she locked him out
For a man who hit her
Who stomped out, leaving torn shoji
In his wake as her cheek swelled
Mochi lets her play in peace
The moths await and the man
Will never come again because
Nekomata do not forgive, do not forget
And have wicked claws

[Gerri Leen lives in Northern Virginia and originally hails from
Seattle. In addition to being an avid reader and an at-times sporadic
writer, she’s passionate about horse racing, tea, whisky, and art. She
has work appearing in: Nature, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine
Show, Daily Science Fiction, Grievous Angel, Grimdark, and others. She’s
edited several anthologies for independent presses, is finishing an
urban fantasy novel, and is a member of SFWA and HWA. See more here.]