Archives for posts with tag: cats

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BONES AND SHADOWS
by John Philip Johnson

She kept its bones in a glass case
next to the recliner in the living room,
and sometimes thought she heard
him mewing, like a faint background music;
but if she stopped to listen, it disappeared.
Likewise with a nuzzling around her calves,
she’d reach absent-mindedly to scratch him,
but her fingers found nothing but air.
One day, in the corner of her eye,
slinking by the sofa, there was a shadow.
She glanced over, expecting it to vanish.
But this time it remained.
She looked at it full on. She watched it move.
Low and angular, not quite as catlike
as one might suppose, but still, it was him.
She walked to the door, just like in the old days,
and opened it, and met a whoosh of winter air.
She waited. The bones in the glass case rattled.
Then the cat-shadow darted at her,
through her legs, and slipped outside.
It mingled with the shadows of bare branches,
and leapt at the shadow of a bird.
She looked at the tree, but there was no bird.
Then he blended into the shadow of a bush.
She stood in the threshold, her hands on the door,
the sharp breeze ruffling the faded flowers
of her house dress, and she could feel
her own bones rattling in her body,
her own shadow trying to slip out.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Philip Johnson has published poems in Rattle, Southern Poetry Review, Euphony, Ruminate, Chicago Quarterly Review, and other literary journals. He lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife and five children. In college, he took up poetry after reading Byron, in “Don Juan”, rhyme “nunnery” with “gunnery” and thought anybody can do this. Visit the poet at  johnphilipjohnson.com.

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MOON
by William Jay Smith

I have a white cat whose name is Moon;
He eats catfish from a wooden spoon,
And sleeps till five each afternoon.
 
Moon goes out when the moon is bright
And sycamore trees are spotted white
To sit and stare in the dead of night.
 
Beyond still water cries a loon,
Through mulberry leaves peers a wild baboon,
And in Moon’s eyes I see the moon.

SOURCE: “Moon” appears in William Jay Smith’s collection Laughing Time: Collected Nonsense (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1980).

ART: “Beauty in White” by DanceswithCats. Cards available at zazzle.com.

smith

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: William Jay Smith, age 95, served as the nineteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1968 to 1970. Born in Louisiana, and brought in Missouri, Smith received his A.B. and M.A. from Washington University in St. Louis, and continued his studies at Columbia University and Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. Smith was a poet in residence at Williams College from 1959–1967 and taught at Columbia University from 1973 until 1975. He serves as the Professor Emeritus of English literature at Hollins University. Smith is the author of ten collections of poetry, including two finalists for the National Book Award. He has been member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1975.

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AFTERNOON BREAK
by Peggy Curtis

cat sleeping
the comma

Illustration: “Sleeping cat,” ceramic bowl by Rukaya, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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CALENDARS
by Jim Harrison

Back in the blue chair in front of the green studio

another year has passed, or so they say, but calendars lie.

They’re a kind of cosmic business machine like

their cousin clocks but break down at inopportune times.

Fifty years ago I learned to jump off the calendar

but I kept getting drawn back on for reasons

of greed and my imperishable stupidity.

Of late I’ve escaped those fatal squares

with their razor-sharp numbers for longer and longer.

I had to become the moving water I already am,

falling back into the human shape in order

not to frighten my children, grandchildren, dogs and friends.

Our old cat doesn’t care. He laps the water where my face used to be.
***
“Calendars” appears iin Jim Harrison’s collection In Search of Small Gods (Copper Canyon Press, 2006), available at Amazon.com.

PHOTO: “Cat in birdbath” by Jim Vansant. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

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THE CATS WILL KNOW
by Cesare Pavese
Translated by Geoffrey Brock

Rain will fall again
on your smooth pavement,
a light rain like
a breath or a step.
The breeze and the dawn
will flourish again
when you return,
as if beneath your step.
Between flowers and sills
the cats will know.
 
There will be other days,
there will be other voices.
You will smile alone.
The cats will know.
You will hear words
old and spent and useless
like costumes left over
from yesterday’s parties.
 
You too will make gestures.
You’ll answer with words—
face of springtime,
you too will make gestures.
 
The cats will know,
face of springtime;
and the light rain
and the hyacinth dawn
that wrench the heart of him
who hopes no more for you—
they are the sad smile
you smile by yourself.
 
There will be other days,
other voices and renewals.
Face of springtime,
we will suffer at daybreak.
***
“The Cats Will Know” appears in Cesare Pavese’s collection Disaffections: Complete Poems 1930-1950 (Copper Canyon Press, 2002).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cesare Pavese (1908 –1950) was an Italian poet, novelist, literary critic and translator. In his home country, he is widely considered among the major authors of the 20th century. (Source: wikipedia.org.)

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the feel of it
by Charles Bukowski

A. Huxley died at 69,
much too early for such a
fierce talent,
and I read all his
works
but actually
Point Counter Point
did help a bit
in carrying me through
the factories and the
drunk tanks and the
unsavory
ladies.
that
book
along with Hamsun’s
Hunger
they helped a
bit.
great books are
the ones we
need.

I was astonished at
myself for liking the
Huxley book
but it did come from
such a rabid
beautiful
pessimistic
intellectualism,
and when I first
read P.C.P
I was living in a
hotel room
with a wild and
crazy
alcoholic woman
who once threw
Pound’s Cantos
at me
and missed,
as they did
with me.

I was working
as a packer
in a light fixture
plant
and once
during a drinking
bout
I told the lady,
“here, read this!”
(referring to
Point Counter
Point
.)

“ah, jam it up
your ass!” she
screamed at
me.

anyway, 69 seemed
too early for Aldous
Huxley to
die.
but I guess it’s
just as fair
as the death of a
scrubwoman
at the same
age.

it’s just that
with those who
help us
get on through,
then
all that light
dying, it works the
gut a bit —
scrubwomen, cab drivers,
cops, nurses, bank
robbers, priests,
fishermen, fry cooks,
jockeys and the
like
be
damned.

Photo: Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) with his cat muse.

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That’s the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you.” 

RAY BRADBURY

Photo: Julia D, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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BONES AND SHADOWS
by John Philip Johnson

She kept its bones in a glass case
next to the recliner in the living room,
and sometimes thought she heard
him mewing, like a faint background music;
but if she stopped to listen, it disappeared.
Likewise with a nuzzling around her calves,
she’d reach absent-mindedly to scratch him,
but her fingers found nothing but air.
One day, in the corner of her eye,
slinking by the sofa, there was a shadow.
She glanced over, expecting it to vanish.
But this time it remained.
She looked at it full on. She watched it move.
Low and angular, not quite as catlike
as one might suppose, but still, it was him.
She walked to the door, just like in the old days,
and opened it, and met a whoosh of winter air.
She waited. The bones in the glass case rattled.
Then the cat-shadow darted at her,
through her legs, and slipped outside.
It mingled with the shadows of bare branches,
and leapt at the shadow of a bird.
She looked at the tree, but there was no bird.
Then he blended into the shadow of a bush.
She stood in the threshold, her hands on the door,
the sharp breeze ruffling the faded flowers
of her house dress, and she could feel
her own bones rattling in her body,
her own shadow trying to slip out.

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THE ADDRESSING OF CATS
by T.S. Eliot

You’ve read of several kinds of Cat,
And my opinion now is that
You should need no interpreter
To understand their character.
You now have learned enough to see
That Cats are much like you and me
And other people whom we find
Possessed of various types of mind.
For some are same and some are mad
And some are good and some are bad
And some are better, some are worse–
But all may be described in verse.
You’ve seen them both at work and games,
And learnt about their proper names,
Their habits and their habitat:
But how would you address a Cat?
 
So first, your memory I’ll jog,
And say:  A CAT IS NOT A DOG.
 
And you might now and then supply
Some caviare, or Strassburg Pie,
Some potted grouse, or salmon paste–
He’s sure to have his personal taste.
(I know a Cat, who makes a habit
Of eating nothing else but rabbit,
And when he’s finished, licks his paws
So’s not to waste the onion sauce.)
A Cat’s entitled to expect
These evidences of respect.
And so in time you reach your aim,
And finally call him by his NAME.
 
So this is this, and that is that:
And there’s how you ADDRESS A CAT.
 
Painting: “Blue Cat, Green Eyes” by Walasse Ting

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THE NAMING OF CATS
Poem by T.S. Eliot

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there’s the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo, or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey —
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter —
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkstrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum —
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover —
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

(From Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, poems by T.S. Eliot)

Listen to T.S. Eliot read “The Naming of Cats” here

Painting: “Cats in the Garden” by Walasse Ting (1929-2010)