Here’s a poem *not* about cats (well, maybe!) by J. Stephen Rhodes from the journal qarrtsiluni’s recent “Animals In The City” issue. I think he captures cats’ moods and behaviors perfectly:
You can’t write a poem about cats,
some professor said some time ago,
so this is not about them and how
they might run this old city that slopes
down to the Cote d’Azur and draws
in the sea. And, why should anyone bother
to describe the water either, blue beyond
blue, what Plato would have called the color’s
essence. So, this is not about how
each yard in the Cite Medieval has
at least two chats—landed gentry—
black, white or gray typically
but also the occasional yellow
or brown, though these latter figure more
in alleys, les chats ordinaires,
sleeping with legs or tails draped over walls
built during the time of Francis the First,
Charles of Anjou, or Julius Caesar.
You can’t write about them, even though
they’ve been here since the Phoenicians,
maybe, and if that’s the case they might
have been chasing rats onto triremes
from Egypt itself, mother of all
their unmentionable kind, perhaps.
Nor should you describe how they stroll
on the Avenue du General De Gaulle
past Jeff de Brugges and other fine stores,
tails erect, on the lookout for good deals
like everyone else. In windows, on stoops,
you can’t mention their toilettes or their naps,
or the occasional rendez-vous, either
courteous or, it must be said, sometimes rude.
All this having not been said, as they
are beneath some people’s notice, one might not
want to add that we, being human,
are beneath theirs, as well, and thus stare
with the same perplexity some of us share.
— J. Stephen Rhodes
Btw, I also have a poem in the same issue, but mine is about bees!
I wanted to share a piece called “High Density” by Rosalie Gascoigne (1917 – 1999) because of the text and the colors she used. It is a visual poem–or Vispo–done in a beautiful calico palette. I can’t get it to embed correctly, so here it a link to it on the tumblr blog of visual poet Anatol Knotek:
Now that I did that, Zemanta/Wordpress is suggesting these other art works–in the calico palette. How can it tell what I mean by that?? I mean, is it making visual matches, or does the search feature understand what ‘calico’ means?
But wait! I guess I should have done my research before posting, hmm? Zemanta just knows Rosalie Gascoigne’s work when it sees her name. It didn’t give me her name with the captions provided (see below), but the first two are her work. I don’t know why the second one says “Gascoigne Monaro,” except that I learned she lived in the Monaro area (in Australia) at some point.
Here is a link to a gallery/site about her work:
- Oh Those Calicos (dogsandcats.typepad.com)
Is the lady accordionist in this charming illustration by Naomi Wilkinson harping while dreaming of tigers? Are the tigers dancing the polka? Flying? Burning?
Check it out!
Here is a depths-of-the-year, broken-hearted-lover poem from Italian poet Cesare Pavese. The poet looks ruefully forward to the “light rains” and “hyacinth dawns” of spring … with cats.
Here is an excerpt from the poem:
“The cats . . .
are the sad smile
you smile by yourself.”
Read the rest of the poem at the Poetry Foundation website:
Here are excerpts from “who put on our shoes,” a lovely poem by Rozalie Hirs, translated from Dutch by Donald Gardner, and published in Joyland Poetry (http://joylandpoetry.com/stories/consulate/who_put_my_shoes).
there look at those wild-strawberry leaves purring a little
cat between thorns where a tree shakes its swaying antlers
by skeletal islands dry-as-dust wind
[Translated by Donald Gardner for StAnza, Scotland’s Poetry Festival, March 2012, with financial support from the Dutch Foundation for Literature, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. © 2012 Donald Gardner, Rozalie Hirs.]
The poet celebrates the scene’s “wild-strawberry,” “swaying antlers,” and “cat between thorns” multidimensionality. There are “pomegranate leaves [with] their scarlet hairs” and “white elderberry sprays.” There’s the black-green of “tiny scots pines” and “belladonna,” so the calico color array is in fact invoked.
Since we know that sometimes the Europeans call their calicos tortoiseshells, and since the poem opens with “there look . . . purring a little/cat between thorns” and moves finally to the “burning larch needles [which] always stab red staggered tortoiseshells springing,” I think this poem is about how integral “a little/cat” is to nature’s panoply. The poem portrays this panoply by layered, abutted descriptions, up to and including “peacock butterflies.”
Here is an image of what we’d probably call a calico in the U.S., but is called a tortie because she’s in England:
The image of “peacock butterflies” is itself a chimera–a double-natured creature–and indicates the strangely genre-gender-bending and anthropomorphizing that Hirs establishes as the reality in the cosmos of this poem.
N.B., See Venus the Two-Faced Cat Still a Mystery (news.nationalgeographic.com) for more on the chimera cat whose image I put in an earlier post.
Here is a poem by Los Angeles poet Michelle Bitting.
As memory brushes its sequins
under the desert’s
I pray with a monk’s fever
and stitch an austere habit
from the calico
of your eyes
that no longer watch
but wing like clouds
over the trembling mesa.
No way to scour
from your sky’s eternal rooms
or the tempered rock—
ghosting into gone.
from diode, Winter 2012