Here are some poems I've done over the years that contain cats in them. For fifty years cats have always been among my favorite dramatis personae.
ON THE BLACKNESS OF SIDNEY
The first day he came to us, he was outside,
on the ledge, staring through the picture window,
burrs clinging to his haunches, patches of fur missing,
mad with hunger and dermatitis, fugitive from the woods,
accusing us, pressing his soundless cry against glass.
He ran off. Next day, we saw him beneath the blue spruce,
his body absorbed into the darkness of the ground,
eyes like lights risen from a depth. We knelt, and called,
saved him from a diet of crickets, removed swollen ticks,
black blood bursting over thumbnails, spoke to his
survivor’s nervousness, arguing a world safe, where love
growls in every tree, mercy squeals, the heart fails.
We saved him again as we returned from the beach,
the smell of sand and sea clinging to towels
and folding chairs. He came limping toward us, wincing
at our touch, panting like an old miner with black lung.
His bladder blocked. Those little stones
accreted from his ashy fears, anger’s alkali unfulfilled,
he would soon bloat like a child dying of hunger,
acting out the news of crop failures, helpless,
empathic. The vet removed his penis.
A urethra now wide, to pass the sediments of maleness,
made him no more female than Ethiopian marble
or the altered bulls of Pamplona. That didn’t matter.
What astonished was his reaction to the anesthetic:
his balding stomach; a grayish pink showing between
his incipient nipples. It was knowing he wasn’t ebony
to his bones. It was the soft feel of his baby skin,
the gradual, darkening fuzz of his body’s assumptions,
the way he pulled at his fur, combing it with his teeth,
the tips of white hairs like slivers of moon-fire
flickering in the space between his golden eyes.
(First published in The Quarterly)
ON THE LOVE BETWEEN JAKE AND MOLLY
We named them as people. As victims risen above their past.
The cartilage of her ears shriveled from frostbite, his tail
kinked at the end, as if knotted, snipped by a boy's scissors.
It would have been so easy to imagine the rat-infested halls
of Ellis Island, the inspectors misnaming our grandfathers,
her agitations of a woman remembering armored cars in the streets,
air-raid sirens, the cruel militia: these attributes
of our losses, as we took their natures from them, recounting
how children chased her, an orphan, across Gramatan Avenue,
how he had been declawed as dangerous, his owner a lover of dogs.
Let the way they sleep against each other be the marriage
of themselves. Let her caterwauling at departures
be the anger of abandonment, her love of string the twisting
of instinct. Let his quick temper and absolute pride,
the blueness of his focused eyes, be the dusk of Siamese
temples, his deference to her at mealtime the love of ceremony.
(First published in the Mudlark online chapbook Poems with Cats)
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TOWER IN KHAFJI
Molly’s atop the TV,
black tail dangling in counter point
to the tower where Iraqi
spotters call in fire upon the marines
who are knocking holes through a cinder-block
a long swaying comma
where the colonel talks,
helmet strap under his jaw,
a phone ringing until our answering machine
blares, offering free estimates on vinyl
Molly curls into herself
as high-rise apartments lose
their stucco look, lathing shredded
and hung like lace underwear,
marines taking howitzer hits,
Qatari tanks with erect cannons
move on Khafji the announcer describes
as beautiful by the sea.
Molly looks over her shoulder,
annoyed the blanket next to us
is crumpled. She turns to the window,
pupils wide with darkness,
spotting a purple finch that flutters
in the ivy clinging to the house,
her pink lips trembling,
ech ech ech ech ech
summer’s crisp cicada,
the monarch slowly flapping,
the soft head of the white-footed mouse,
the evergreen on Young Road draped with yellow
my student’s essay denouncing Olaf glad and big.
A graphic shows the convoy near Wafra
hit by B-52’s, animated gray clouds
appearing and disappearing
like exploding trucks in a Road Runner cartoon.
disgusted with the finch
that has fumbled in the ivy and flown away,
drops heavily onto the carpet she marked last year,
a burned personnel carrier, its front wheel
twisted like a broken leg in its boot,
side-wheels crusted and huge as an earth-mover’s,
bits of slab embedded between thick treads,
a door wrenched from its hinges the idea of
Molly now on her back,
staring at us upside-down,
her white belly like trapped fluff
blown from the dryer,
the colonel clenching his teeth.
(This poem refers to an event that occurred during he first Gulf War in 1991 and was anthologized in a book with poems about that war)
©2017 John Allman
Editor's Note: If this poem(s) moves you please consider writing to the author (email address above) to tell him or her. You might say what it is about the poem that moves you. Writing to the author is the beginning of community at Verse Virtual. It is very important. -FF