Here’s a poem …

les chats de la victoire

Les chats de la victoire (Photo credit: Isaszas)

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!


A Visual Poem (In Calico Colors)

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:


Metropolis, 1999 (detail)

Metropolis, 1999 (detail) (Photo credit: aur2899)

gascoigne monaro

Gascoigne Monaro (Photo credit: One Thousand Words)

Poem and calligraph

Poem and calligraph (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Lady With Tigers (via Tumblr)

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’s William Blake’s Tyger poem, with his engraving, to which I’m alluding
William Blake's "The Tyger," publish...

William Blake’s “The Tyger,” published in his Songs of Innocence and of Experience (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The Cats Will Know” (Cesare Pavese)

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:

Those “red staggered tortoiseshells springing”

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 (

River birch bark

River birch bark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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

 swift cuts a tail into two points punt drifts
 riverbanks to my right-as-rain roses on hairpin legs
 toes with thoughts and tongue in cheek clacking
 the buds burst out of their husks happy to be alive I am
 a daybreak lilac when its bursting spray allows
 and birch bark curls dance in wind
[  . . . . ]
with pomegranate leaves their scarlet hairs
I see loosestrife rooting through fields
weeds cuttings of horsetails a land full of may
moisten earth to sow spring ask mountains the time
not to be spun fine pale yellow plumed thistles not to come too close
pods float in ditches reflect white elderberry sprays
a smell wrapped in jasmine hats lost on air
speckled mossy green climb with daisy stalks
ladders along hair pupating into peacock butterflies
 [ . . . . ]
in knuckles little daggers of burning larch needles
always stab red staggered tortoiseshells springing where
hogweed grows beside pale birch bark bees zoom
the moon its antics see flagellates springing nightingale
then I eat belladonna slimy frogs legs hop
in curling beck between the script of tiny scots pines
bellowing sea joy billowing honey streams of cotton grass
bones of verge grass batter against a hill beacons
in the distance ships understand mirroring each other to shards

[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.]

I think this is beautiful ‘calico aesthetics’–not because it uses red, black, and white colors per se, but because it enacts a synaesthetic meld of sense perceptions and levels of dictions that doesn’t obscure each element. It doesn’t turn what’s calico–with its distinct but related aspects–into a tortie or tabby’s muddled gradations of color.

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.

English: Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) at Å...

English: Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) at Ålö in Stockholm archipelago (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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:

English: Billie, a female one-year-old tortie ...

English: Billie, a female one-year-old tortie and white cat (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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 ( for more on the chimera cat whose image I put in an earlier post.

“the calico/of your eyes”

Here is a poem by Los Angeles poet Michelle Bitting.


As memory brushes its sequins
under the desert’s
lifted skirt

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
this smoke
from your sky’s eternal rooms

or the tempered rock—

ghosting  into        gone.  

from diode, Winter 2012