THE FELINE FILE: Poems for Every Cat Lover

by Tom McBride

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


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?”

No white-out.

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.


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.”


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.


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.


“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.”


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, 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.

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