WITHOUT YOU, THE CAT

Standard

Without you, the cat
has lost his
piss and vinegar.
His alarm clock died.

Remember that old macho paw–
the velvet drumstick
he would play upon our cheeks
to be let out?
He doesn’t do it anymore.

Since you left
he hardly steps outside, he
stretches in the stale
hollow of your pillow, settles-in
to merely watch
the birds chase maple buds.

We watch them together,
the cat and I, we

try to figure how
to start the day without you.
The cat
just sleeps it off.
I write these letters
on the ceiling.
And the letters say please,
please come back

for the sake of the cat.

57 responses »

  1. You are so generous here, allowing us to glimpse the way love lives and aches and must have its voice. The poem is clean, clear, spare and generous. I will be in touch. Think of you so often. No trips East in 2014. Thank you for writing! And sharing.

  2. Ah, this is lovely and sad. I like how you make the cat “do it” ๐Ÿ™‚ We can project so much of ourselves in cats!

    I used to love cats very much, but they do kill a lot of birds, recently such nice kitties killed all the young birds in our neighbour’s garden, and the smell of their pee coming in from the outside is not pleasant either. There are too many cats in our street, basically. My husband doesn’t want one anymore and I am now convinced he is right. Cats are not part of nature anymore, they kill it. Still, they do have that wonderful furry empathy thing! We need their love! lol

    • Thanks, Ina!
      I was always more of a “dog person”, but have come to appreciate cats over time. They are fascinating creatures. Two cats live with me, Beau and Lulu (that’s short for “Hallelujah”, a long story). They are housecats, neutered, spayed, and very fastidiously use a litter box. Beau is 18 and on his 10th life. Lulu is 14, a wannabe huntress, and occasionally presents me with such delicacies as a decapitated mouse. She sits in a window watching birds and biting the air. We rarely see cats on the loose around here anymore; most are kept indoors, like mine, and would be killed by larger animals like the coyote if they went wandering.

      • Yikes coyote’s! Yes, that is a way to prevent them from killing lol;. here cats have no enemies, so they are becoming a bit of a plague. But they are adorable too so it is difficult to do something about it. ๐Ÿ™‚ Your’s sound perfect company! ๐Ÿ™‚ x

        • Yes, they really are good company. And they get along well with the dog. We have a program around here whereby feral cats are caught, spayed, neutered, and released back into the wild so they don’t reproduce at such an alarming rate. Don’t know how well that’s working out….there are always nice ladies willing to feed them.:-)

            • Yes, and other beasties too! The feral cats are wild, not as naรฏve as house pets, so they’re pretty feisty and have their ways to stay out of trouble, though some do become victims..another link in nature’s food chain…eat and be eaten….I once lived on an ocean peninsula where coyote used to swim across the harbor. At one point there were so many and they were so brazen, the town (Hull, Massachusetts) had to close the school for fear they would attack the kids. One neighbor screamed in horror as she watched a coyote seize and carry off her little Shih-tzu in its teeth…

  3. Oh Cynthia, Im sure you know how much I love this without saying it; one of our cats has a velvet drumstick when she comes to me adking for food; it’s a communication like no other. And I love the way you are able to plead for this beloved person to come back via the cat’s need. This poem is a complete delight, both in it’s sadness and love – and everything else i cant put into words but wish I could.

    Moving away from the music of the poem to more basic stuff, when you write a poem are there rules about line breaks or does the poet simply make them where they feel it to be ‘right’?

    • Well, it was time for a cat poem, I figured. ๐Ÿ™‚

      About “free verse”….I can only speak for myself. When I am not dancing to the tune of a traditional poetic form such as the sonnet, terza rima, or rondeau, I create my own form intuitively. That means I start and stop lines by some sort of instinct that combines sound, rhythm and thought/feeling. I might stop a line to make it “fit” with other lines, to create a pause, a silence, a dwelling upon what comes after it, or to resonate certain vowels or consonants. Stanza breaks—same thing. It’s trial and error, expand, expand, cut, cut, revise, revise until it seems “right”….at least to the maker of the poem. Robert Frost called it playing tennis without a net. I think he was onto something.

      • What a fabulous quote from Robert Frost! Thank you for your input; Im always concerned Im getting it “wrong” somehow. But from what you have said it’s up to the poet with free verse. I do struggle with it though; maybe it starts to feel easier with time; the more I write….
        Robert Frost was one of the poets I was guided towards reading before I started writing anything and it was his poem The Road Not Taken that inspired me so much to give poetry a try, that one and Mary Oliver’s The Journey.

        • I don’t find that it gets any easier with time, but maybe you get to a “form” that becomes ever more distinctly your own. I don’t like the expression “form poems”, by the way, because it’s almost redundant,in my view. If they’re poems, they have one sort of form or another..traditional or new, free or incarcerated. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Cynthia you so exquisitely intertwine the immense pain and longing felt for the person – as the human and cat walk through the time capsule together, in each their own way. Incredible visuals of emotion are weaved here for the reader to experience ~

    • “Visuals of emotion””… what an evocative phrase, Mary. It’s a bit more difficult to do with words than with pure color but I’m happy to hear it succeeds in your eyes. Thank you!

  5. Having eyes that look at you with a certain chatoyancy is not my line of country, being an inveterate, hard-nosed dog person, but I never fail to appreciate how the feline spirit can interpose itself into the day’s ebb and flow, lending an ever-so-slight standoffish coloration to my tabby character.

    Your poem captures with marvelous aplomb the mystery I call cat-ness.

    • It is with a certain felicity that I say I am curmudgeonly free of the fawning felineophilia so often observed in childless ladies of my age and station. I can catalogue the virtues, love, and even be less dogmatic than I once was…….but there’s also something about a D-O-G, isn’t there? ( I’m sure your Ariel would think I spelled that backwards..)

      I’ m happy you appreciate the conceit of catoyance in this poem.

      • Yes, and you’ll duly note that the expression is being dog-matic about something, as opposed to being cat-matic, which just doesn’t seem to have the same je ne sais quoi, leading me to believe that godly dogs (as an aside, canine backwards spells eninac–some sort of eskimo hairstyle, I think) have just as much mystical punch as cats. Ariel told me to say that (in doggy Morse code, naturally).

        • I am bemused by the mention of that Eskimo hairstyle and wonder if it’s especially becoming on husky persons… But Ariel is right, as usual. My own dog Chloรซ, she of questionable provenance, cloddishness, and foolishness, knows only one Morse code message, invariably delivered on vinyl tile or hardwood: “I need my nails clipped.” Ariel, on the other hand, hanging around with you as she does, could entertain the notion of becoming a published poet. I can see the book jacket now: “Doggerel by Ariel”.

          • The bouffanty ‘eninca’ hairstyle suits all types, and by all types I mean eunuchs, hermaphrodites, international bankers, and, to add a Parnassian touch, lovely Naiads. It’s a sort of beehive hairdo and so versatile. Looks ravishing in the igloo.

            Chloรซ, who no doubt listens to Motรถrhead with dogged tenacity, must be musical and lovely and poetic to resemble her mistress. Isn’t there something about how man’s best friend is a reflection of his owner?

            But instead of ‘Doggerels by Ariel,’ I seem to be partial to ‘Ariel recites dirty limericks taught to her by pestilential master.’

            Limericks with the aabbaรซรซรถรถ scheme, of course. (Sorry for being so pedantic.)

            • Now I bloom in flattery as well as pedantry, but my poet side must be off to spend time alone with that limerick scheme you propose, to ascertain which of the final quatrain syllables have umlauts, and which, trรฉmas. Thank you so much for a delightful, invigorating conversation!

  6. Hi Cynthia – what a hauntingly sad poem. It kicked off a lively discussion about cats, but to me the message is one of great longing. It is made more so when I recall our cats who danced to their own tune, loving when they chose, and walking by themselves (Kipling) when they chose. Now your dog always loves does he not? Perhaps his wagging tail prevents longing for the lost loved one.
    Lovely poetry – your sadness adds to its beauty.
    Jane

    • To my own perplexity, a non-specific sadness has always lived with me, and may be what pushes toward poetry. The other side of that coin, humor and joy, are also permanent residents. It seems I can usually trust you, and John Stevens, to recognize and appreciate such things. Thanks, Jane.

  7. Oh, this is beautifully said, so real, and so sad too! Animals are extremely sensitive creatures, and they do often change when someone’s presence is not there any more. I love the bit about the paw on cheeks – how lovely that is, almost like a little child. They do something similar, grabbing hold of their parents faces, especially at 6am on a Sunday morning when no-one is interested in an early breakfast!

    It seem to be a cat evening for me tonight, I’ve just been reading about someone having had to put their cat to sleep because it was too ill, and all the dilemmas an owner experiences with that. So I’ve had a good cat owner education tonight!

    And I’m still really enjoying your writing Cynthia, you are so good at explaining those small but essential pieces of life! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Hello Suzy…you always write interesting comments–supportive and encouraging, but also conversational, that is, you add to the ideas at hand, taking your “turn” with them. That enriches the blogging experience I think, makes it more than a one-sided or perfunctory thing. That business of euthanizing a beloved animal is heartbreaking; I ‘ve had to make that decision three times with my dogs, over the years. My cats just grew very old, not sick, and I cared for them at home until they died peacefully. They, all of them, taught me a great deal about aging and death. One of them was the kitty-cat who stars in the poem above. Thank you for visiting again, and liking it! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Well, Eric, I know you know all about using our beloved pets to stand for human attitudes and feelings, or you wouldn’t have delighted your readers with so many Doggy Dog and Catty Cat scenarios….thanks for stopping by to read this one!

    • Thank you, Ramu! I was not familiar with that Neruda poem, so I looked it up….a wonderful simplicity and directness with a certain amount of emotional restraint….I liked it very much! Thank you again .

      • Well I for one could not dispute their wisdom! I just got a collection of poetry listed on Amazon’s kindle. Guess who graces the cover? An amazing feline of course. ๐Ÿ˜‰

        • In addition to their divinity, cats have become most useful and practical for selling anything…from dishtowels to poems…even T.S. Eliot must have surmised that when he entitled his book “Old Possum’s Book of PRACTICAL Cats. ๐Ÿ™‚

          • Absolutely! Have you ever read a delicious little book called The Fur Person by May Sarton? If you had, you wouldn’t forget it and if not, you are wasting time! ๐Ÿ™‚ It is a quick read but anyone that understands cats will love this. Have you ever met a tabby who not only sings but writes his own music? ๐Ÿ˜‰

            • That May Sarton book is one of my favorites…I keep a manila folder in my files with paperwork relevant to the cats, and the folder is labelled FUR PERSONS…if someone other than myself ever needs that data, they’ll have fun searching for it under”C” for cat, instead of “F”…. ๐Ÿ™‚

              Not yet, on the tabby, but I’ve encountered cats who dance…

              • It wouldn’t surprise me at anything a cat might accomplish!
                “I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.”
                – Jean Cocteau

  8. Beautiful! You captured the essence of cat’s feelings wonderfully. They are very sensitive creatures underneath their sometimes aloof appearance. Where would we be without them! ๐Ÿ™‚ x

  9. I had a browse through your posts and this one brought tears to my eyes. I’m glad I was given your blog address. Much love, Michelle

    • Dear Michelle—What a treat to find your comment here this morning! I have thought of you and Torre and the children as very bright spots among the good memories…and hoped all has been well with you…so it’s especially sweet, now that most of my time is devoted to this more contemplative phase of life to hear from you…..much love and hugs! ๐Ÿ™‚

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