After we rented the rambling shack in Costa Rica
where, at high tide, the ocean lapped our patio,
a feral tabby moved in with three kittens.
Gringos ate better meat, left more scraps.
She never let me touch her, yet she lay within ten feet
wherever I sat. She punished her kittens
when they approached me. Whatever she caught,
she fed first to them. Her prize: a poisonous sea snake.
Not only did she drag the serpent from the surf,
but up the stairway to the balcony outside our bedroom.
When I tried to sweep it off, she attacked my ankle.
For three days, we skirted the bloody shrinking carcass.
When a dog ambled by, she would run in a crouch,
gaining speed for her pounce, and hang tight to its flank
as the whimpering canine tried to shake free from her claws.
Natives honored her as La Gata, not an ordinary el gato.
Pregnant again, she studied me through breakfast,
training me to set down my plate with a bit of leftover egg.
Her adolescent kittens still ate before she did.
She birthed her new litter in my kitchen cupboard.
The day after her kittens were born, she killed them,
and forced their older siblings to eat them.
She finished what they left.
First published in Cream City Review