Penelope Pussycat Finally Speaks,
An Open Letter to Pepe Le Pew

It took fifty years to give me a name. Half a century
of being only mon cheri, mademoiselle.
“Penelope Pussycat,” they finally decided, a moniker
borrowed from a girl corkscrewed around a pole,
dollar bills for panties.
Fitting, they said.

I slinked under a freshly painted ladder
and a white stripe burned into my fur, like a scarlet A,
meant I was asking for it. That I wanted to always be watched
through binoculars, fancied the trail of drooling kisses
from my paw to collar laid on thick
as his French accent,
that my mad dash from his grasp
meant I liked to be chased – meant yes! – and of course,
they never gave me a voice, just some French
before small words; le mew, le meow,
when running; le puff, le pant,
le gasp!

When you sauntered past,
people plugged their noses with clothespins,
buildings wilted around you, paint fell clear off statues,
and kids at home laughed, and laughed,
and spit out their cereal.

It wasn’t because of your stench that I walked
off that cliff, but how the laugh track was the looped sound
of witch trials, how every man after you would hold me
the way a bathtub holds a girl bleeding out, how love
would fill my heart like a running exhaust pipe
in a closed garage,

and you became the poster boy of romance,
and I am the reason they named it a “cat-call,”
and how some days I still pluck your claws from my flesh.