Saturday, December 25, 2010

215. Not My Cat Jeoffrey

I’m sorry to tell you this, but
there are no cats in poems.

At times, people have reported
sightings and told stories of such cats,
yet none has ever been found.
None of these stories could be
corroborated. That is because
they are imposibble.

Don’t worry about this, though,
because a poem cannot hold a cat
and could not manage it
if the cat showed up inside it.

While I was writing this, the whiskers
of my cat appeared out of
the darkness around me (because
I am sitting in the dark as I type),
only his whiskers. Beside me
there appeared a small tuft
of glossy whiskers, white
in the light of the computer screen.

They quickly disappeared
back into the darkness and without
any sound, not even the sense
of a weight leaving the couch
I was sitting on, I am still sitting on.

This cat is quiet, voiceless, unless
he believes it is time for a meal.

His name, for he has a name,
for he is a real cat, and for his name
isn’t Jeoffrey—he is not my cat Jeoffrey
even if I am myself Geoffrey—his name
is Gate Wilder Squid, which is not
a name invented for him. The original
Gate Wilder Squid was an imaginary cat,
born in a shoe closet at the top of a run of stairs
and between two worlds separated from each other
only by a mirror, itself the portal back and forth between
these two worlds. And I told the stories
of this Gate Wilder Squid to my two children
when they were young. These were bedtime stories,
some of them scary, but my cat is named Gate.

Gate is a Manx, a large grey tabby, with
all the circular robustness of a Manx, the two coats
of fur, the higher back legs, and he is
a rumpy riser—only three or four vertebrae
in place of a tail. He is a beautiful cat and larger
than any of our small dachshunds, with their miniature
legs. All of our pets are freaks of nature.

He is a friendly cat, my cat Gate,
though not usually demonstrative.
He likes to sit beside me as I type,
or he might nudge me to pet him,
and when I do his fur releases its hairs,
which then float in the air and cover
my hands. He never wants to sit
in a lap, even thought he always
wants to lie beside someone,
especially on a cold night.

My cat Gate,
whose name is almost Gato,
is not much of a cat. He will come
if I call his name or run my thumb
and forefinger together. He is lonely
without company.

Still he is enough of a cat that he will
dart away at the sound of a sneeze.
I call him a fraidy cat for this
and other reasons.

He is a good mouser. It is winter now,
which is the time of year when mice
return to this house to escape into its
relative warmth. (I am typing this
from underneath a blanket.) We have
no mice this year, but most years we have mice
for a few weeks, until Gate has waited for each
of them, caught each, and then played with them
until they’ve died. The process can be brutal,
with the screaming of mine going on for
a half an hour, maybe more. He never eats
the mice, though. He only kills them.

Once again, I apologize that I cannot
give you a poem with a cat in it, so I give you
a poem that talks about a cat, a real cat,
a real beast of fur and startling green eyes.

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