Nghiem Tran


Conversation with Cat

After I fed my cat,
he told me he was straight.
He was worried I’d assumed he wasn’t.
He wanted to clear the air, so to speak. 

I was silent for a while, trying to remember
what I’d done to make him feel this way.

For the past few days, I’d been confiding in him
about my colonized desires, which is to say

I like white men too much. 
The cat had purred during my monologues,
so I’d felt encouraged. But now I realized he was purring

because I was petting him. He had a special gland on his mouth 
that was pleasurable to touch, and I must have unconsciously

manipulated him to listen to me. Nevertheless,
he could have told me to shut up, which would have felt 

like less of a betrayal 
than being hetero.

We didn’t talk for a week.

Then, as I was watching from my window
a couple kissing on the street, the cat jumped 
on the window sill and rubbed his mouth
against my arm. Lonely little thing,
he said, the kind of longing you have in your heart

will kill you one day. 
What are you? I asked,
a cat or an oracle?

Both, he said, then prophesied 
I should get out the house more.


Nghiem Tran photo.jpg

Nghiem Tran was born in Vietnam and raised in Wichita, KS. He is a Kundiman Fellow, and his writing can be seen in Indiana Review, which awarded him its 2015 1/2k Prize, NepantlaThe OffingThe Margins, and elsewhere. In the fall, he will be an MFA candidate at Syracuse University. He has a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with cats.