Claw the System is a collection of poems illustrated by photos of cats. But it is so much more. To give you an idea. I was reading a poem called Pancakes that perfectly captured a conversation on Facebook earlier that day about how anti-blackness was so pervasive shelters struggle to place black dogs and cats. It was late and I was in bed reading before going to sleep, but that poem was so perfect, I crawled out of bed and posted it to the woman who brought up the shelter discussion. That’s the kind of emotional weight some of the poems convey, even though they convey it with a light touch.

Pancakes

There is a white cat
There is a black cat
And we each sit on your pancakes
Full butt in thick syrup
Warm butter pat
Nestled deep betwixt our cheeks
To the white cat your cry
“How could you do this?”
To the black cat you say
“I knew you were bad luck since day one.”

But it’s not just the political aptness, though it has that. It is also the understanding of cats. Clearly, Marcuiliano has experience with a face cat like mine. The poem The Press does not go where you think it will, but it does where a cat owner recognizes.

Again and again, if you have a cat, you will recognize your cat’s stubborn insistence on getting his own way. The 3:00 a.m. wake up call, the paws on the forehead, the earth-shattering scream that mkes you wonder what it takes to get someone to call the police. Really, my cat howls so loud you can hear him in the parking lot! What cat owner has not googled “my cat drooled in my eye?” It must happen a lot because it autocompletes.

I enjoyed the book so much even though it can be dangerous. I read some of the poems aloud while a friend was driving and she laughed hard enough I felt twinges of passenger anxiety. If they make an audiobook, it might be better to not play it in your car – just as a safety precaution.

It’s rare for a book to find that mix of lighthearted joy in the wayward creatures that have us in their thrall with serious insights into our politics, our society, and our need to Claw the System. I enjoyed this book so much, I have read it over and over again now. I reach for it when I need to lift my mood.

Claw the System will be published October 16th. I received an e-galley from the publisher through Edelweiss.

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