These poems trace days in the lives of such cats as Meo, Joe, Ophelia, and Big Boy. They also illustrate some lively feline wisdom. I’ve long thought that, the more like cats we are, the better off we will be, and will add to this verse at least once a week. –TM
A BLIZZARD OF CATS
We couldn’t tell even one from all the others,
De-itemized by sheer numbers as they were.
The wind blew them all from side to side.
A very few motorists braved the storm.
A Maine Coon or Siamese walloped their windshields.
Eight lives remained.
They blocked out the phone poles and swank cafes.
An endless feline deletion
Erased the prairies and the hills.
They filled all caves with squeaks and squeals.
Soprano, alto, baritone.
No message; just “what are you going to do about us?”
A black and orange and gray-out.
A rainbow, omnipresent and soft.
A spectrum of crayoned fur.
Some wag said, “This is better than a naked tree.”
He was hanged.
Some thought they would walk the tempest out
And got clawed on the noggin,
Brushed with allergic whiskers,
Made warm against their wills.
They covered their ears against
A voluptuous meowed howl.
Most stayed in and window-watched.
They could not long evade their destiny,
What we humans were born for.
Billions came for stray rats and wingless ravens,
Begged for Sensations, Party Mix,
Iams and Fancy Feast. No lap was safe.
Harrowed halibut and miserable mackerel
And every other fishy smell.
Even the man in the highest tower
Felt a stealthy brush against his slumbering leg.
When all finally agreed to surrender,
Wave the flag with the white British shorthair on it,
There were no first names left,
Every Toby, Scruffy, and Peg used up.
Some of us went mad and crawled on all our fours.
These played hockey with bottle caps
And decided life had no other meaning
But they no more could be bothered to care.
At night after the truce, we could hear
A gargantuan concert of purrs,
Like the background radiation that proved
The Big Bang.
MELISSA GOES TO MASS
The church had nothing to hide.
The designers, not in vain, had tried
To make the Lord’s House glass,
As much as ever they could. The mass
Of every window to the ground
Could be seen through; even the sound
Of the organ could be heard from the great outdoors.
Thus did the church show off its stores
Of glory and of grace. Even Melissa the cat
Could gather at the earthen glass, and bat
Swarms of flies while she looked upon the Eucharist.
The priest was glad but thought Melissa missed
A vital point and told her that
“You want the Gospel, little cat,
But I don’t know your tongue.” Melissa heard
And thought, “I can’t afford your love; a sandwich turd
In the world from whence I come. Try to raise
Yourselves above yourselves. I praise
You, but myself can’t live on bread and wine.
Robins and roaches are especially fine:
The body and the blood; the Communion
Of every kitty’s common fun.”
FRANKLIN IN TWO MOVEMENTS
The kid wanted a black one.
We hastened to oblige. Too late
Did we find the speck of white lurking on his mane.
The creature sat with dignity,
Like a living statue in some carny show.
Ineffable logic made him Franklin.
They say cats are career-less.
Frank, shy but sly, was also disputatious.
He smudged his regal subtlety
With deep basso meows. A pro,
He built the family larder with sparrows & crows.
He defended family honor:
Tourneys with badgers and Molly Calico.
His vet bills were enormous.
This is the end of Part One.
His family having moved,
Frank thought that they themselves should fend
For fine cachet & food.
Always retiring in his way,
He retired in unobtrusive fact.
Every career has a finite run.
Walls were as fun
As warblers used to be.
Unlike his betters,
Frank knew that there could be
A time to flee.
Frank knew that he had done his course
And none dared disagree.
Of vet bills was the family free.
End of Part Two.
When the family was away,
Frank fell beneath the sway
Once more of the Heady Out-of-Doors.
He confounded an alarm.
The cops came armed.
Franklin, retired at the time,
Would not pay the fine.
MWO: A LIFE
Two short legs legs at once,
As though prepared to pounce,
Meo sneaked out of the whiff
Of ammo executed well, and sniffed
The smoking flesh of owners
Now placed at mandatory rest. Goners
Were his mom and dad, whom he
Could always take or leave alone. The
Cop took Meo to the station
And gave him a nice vacation
From all the racket that
Had, with rat-tat-tat,
Banished his minders in a drug deal
That raised them off their crooked heels.
Officer Harry gave Meo a slice
Of hot dog and took him home, evidence
That he would snack on some benevolence. Meo
Provoked a possum soon and oh,
How he stole into the starless night. A rival beast
Had left him gored, but at least
He could salivate a gaping wound.
Harry found him strewn
In midnight agony. A lab coat shot
Cools punctures grown too hot,
A chilling salve for every tragic bite.
In penance did Meo become a fright
For thrush and mouse alike:
Proof of feral expertise, a strike
For those who only munches strive to gain,
Indifferent to Lugers and white cocaine.
Nine long years he’d live,
Time have nothing else to give.
LOOK WHAT THE CAT DRAGGED IN
“No,” she said
“You are wrong.
We must find a room
With locks of finest steel
And astronauts’ food
That can be cooked over
And over again. We need
A soft rug on which we wait for God.
We are not meant for wilderness,
For want and bodily harm.
We are not made for the inferno that is others.
Our place is with God.
We must wait alone
On the rug
Wirth the astronauts’ stew
Until God comes to collect us.
God needs no food.
God has no fear of snakes.
God will come to the orphanage to get us.
The orphanage will be this room
With the best steel locks and infinite Apollo grub.
We will be safe. We need only wait.
God will come in a chauffeured Mercedes Benz.”
“No,” he said.
“YOU are wrong.
We are hot meant for God.
We belong in the woods
Or among killers and sharks.
We are flesh, easily bruised and eaten.
We know we are.
We can never be with God.
God does not take in animals.
God is not like us.
God has no end.
God’s only end is not to have one.
But we can change the subject.
We can have hobbies.
We can fancy utopias
Like a puzzle finished or a crossword done.
We can double back on ourselves.
We can put off the bad-ass days.
We can go bowling.
A ten-strike makes it hard
To think of misery and ceasing to be.
No other animal can knock down pins
With a heavy black ball
Or color the ball green. Or White.
No. it is you who are wrong
With your dreams of rugs
And moon-walker steak.”
The cat pounced on the counter.
It knocked off a steak knife for attention.
“You are both wrong,”
Said the cat. “I am in Paradise
Because I do not know I am in Paradise.
Your poor, lousy, talking creatures.
Now I shall shut up.
I will never speak more,
Lest I learn by blabber that I am in Paradise
And fret that I will lose it, you see,
For Heaven is a yummy chickadee.”
FORSYTHIAS AT THE SPEED OF SOUND
March 5, 1953
Joe’s folks had found an early spring.
Cameron Park beckoned in the sun.
There were ponies to ride.
A little train to board
And a bluff that gave a river to adore.
Kitty Joe was left to his own device. He had a lawn,
His very own, and a shortcut—his, too—
And an unassuming green bush to hide in
And a narrow path beneath
That led to the bump-ravaged street
Where cars were rarely seen
And straight to Old Man Hildebrand’s
Bermuda grass, finely chiseled by a grouch.
From there could Joe find flower beds
Where hung out mice and
A fallen thrush. Joe could make a meal
Of what was found
In Old Man Hildebrand’s forsythias.
The flowers were innocent bystanders.
Across the seas
On this very day
A human Joe lay prone,
His wheezing labor-intensive.
He was like the other Joe:
They both had so much, these Joes.
This one had a gargantuan block
With towers and turrets alike
And skulking within were all the stairs
That marbled led to unending comrades.
There was a room and in this room was
An anteroom and yet another.
Finally, one reached a bed.
Where mustachioed Joe’s lungs worked overtime,
Like one of his Soviet farmers,
Who also labored overtime,
But was never paid for it.
Just as Joe had his lawn and his bush
And his ground tunnel and his street
And Old Man Hildebrand’s flower bed,
Joe had his Kremlin and his stairs
And his once-commanding bed.
Both Joes were blessed.
Old Man Hildebrand was mum
As he affixed his 12 gauge.
He would get Joe this time.
He would wipe him as the other Joe
Had murdered his traitors.
He would quiet all growls and every last meow,
Put a see-through hole into the larcenous fur,
Render pointless all the teeth and claws.
Old Man Hildebrand would save his forsythias
As he believed his Lord Jesus Christ had saved
All mankind, but with slightly different methods.
Joe’s comrades thought he was dying
But didn’t know what to do.
If they called the docs, it might get out
And if they saved him, Joe would blame them
For saying he was sick.
Joe would have them shot.
If they did not fetch the medicos
And Joe got well,
For not calling docs
Joe would have them shot.
Old Man Hildebrand twirled his own mustache,
He draped granny specs across a pouty face.
Quiet as a mute chipmunk he went outdoors,
Glad that nature had endorsed a slaughter house.
He fired. Billy two houses down was sure
It was a plane breaking the sound barrier.
This excited Billy. Life was good.
Joe sensed a singing of his ears.
Hence did he travel
Faster than the speed of sound
Back to his street, beneath his hidey-hole,
Through his newly-green March bush,
And back onto his very own lawn
Where Old Man Hildebrand declined to tread.
Joe the Russian
Left town in his sleep.
His last rattle mocking
His thirst for blood.
Forsythia were laid at his bier.
Joe was born a thug.
Nothing better than a bullet
Fired into the brain at the speed of sound.
Joe was a cat:
Nothing finer than forsythia fowl.
OPHELIA: A LIFE
Ophelia, the star of the pound,
In the laps of everyone around,
Was taken to a home, where she
Declined the rules and felt quite free
To pad about at will.
They say that when a kitty girl is orange,
She’s always above the average.
Told to stay indoors, she still
Bullied screens off skinny patio doors
And made all lawns the floors
Of her domain. She conquered trees
And trolled with glee
The next-door pups, whose mistress
Said Ophelia’s folks might miss
Her evermore. Ophelia thrived.
But then no longer did she live.
As they love to say, she got into something.
And they could not bring
Her back. Ophelia was wild
But sweet & kind &mild
To those without four legs.
She preyed and preyed but this begs
The question of her final act:
Perishing in tooth & claw is just an average fact.
Big Boy: a big-boned Siamese;
Called a walking kitty horse.
Uncle Watford was a strolling chimney,
Disdaining filters on his Lucky Strikes.
I’d rather have nothing, said he,
Than puff some rolled-up pulp.
He’d done his duty:
Was born, had kids, learned ropes.
Hardly ever did he dwell
On the accursed points of life.
His lungs got too well-celled.
Big Boy the Cat could never tell
That Wat would soon be finalized.
Why doesn’t this cat, Wat mused,
Ever clean up after me? It was the only time
He was ever moved to re-define.
As the Big C grew, it plundered
Watford’s chest and gut alike.
One night, a gasping mortal changed the lifter.
Then lay down at last.
Big Boy was not one to fritter
Away his time, and in new-laid sand
He lay his feces, as grand
As any microbes that kill a man.
While Wat rested breathless in the other room,
Big Boy his regular napping did presume.