The penultimate day of NaPoWriMo/ GloPoWriMo2020 invites us to pen a paean to a pet. Those who follow me on Facebook from way back in 2016 will be familiar with the saga of The Taming of a Tuxedo Tom. He appeared in the summer of 2016 and slid in through the kitchen window, which we use as a kind of cat flap to save ourselves constantly opening and closing doors and windows. (We had two cats back then. We swelled to four and now are back to three. Also three dogs, now just two. ) Eighteen months later he was the Cat Who Came in from the Cold. There have been many cats who have padded through my life and won my heart, but this tom really wowed me. If familiars are soul friends, then Felix is my feline anam cara. Also, as my husband might say, my bit of rough.
Felix has an autoimmune condition, feline leukaemia, so we know we have been his life savers. But I am also aware that he may only be on loan to us. He is four years old and doing pretty well. Love sometimes is the best medicine.
Goodbyes come like buses. They seem to arrive in packs. Many years ago Clare Shaw set us an exercise is writing a poem on “Instructions for Saying Goodbye.” Today we bid farewell to a dear friend who spends a fortnight each summer with us. We have more than thirty years shared history, the through thick and thin kind of friendship that bears witness to our lives and times. We cook, place vicious Scrabble matches, walk sedately along the lane, laugh uproariously and mourn together. Because yesterday we buried our pet cat Zelda, the first pet who came into our lives after the move to Ireland.
Zelda was a foundling and was fully grown when she turned up at the local holy well. A neighbour fed her during the summer, but was returning home to Birmingham and a heavily trafficked neighbourhood. Not good for a kitty. So my husband adopted her and she was carried down in the arms by the neighbour’s son and never looked back. She has lived here for fifteen years, the second longest lived of our pets. Tortoiseshell cats must have the elixir of long life. Zelda went on to be dubbed the matriarch of the Fairy Cat Tribe having two litters of kittens before we could get her to the vets (definitely did not have our eye on the ball, never happened again!) She was mother to Zazu, Zeena, Zymina, Ziggy and ZsaZsa by the same father who also hung out at the holy well and for whom she spurned all other lovers’ advances. He was black and white with an orange tail and disappeared in his puff of fluff after she went off to the vets for the wee op.
The Poetry Daily today ponders goodbyes. The quotation is from Jack Kerouac.
After the bonus poem for World Poetry Day yesterday, I figured I could cut myself a little slack on poetry practice this morning. Especially, as I have a cat who has somehow managed to injure his left hind leg. So I am more concerned about keeping him warm and quiet; we shall have to see if that will mend matters. He is a wily, often bad-tempered, utterly loveable former feral whom I have socialised into a household. He is full of contradictions. He yearns to belong. He auditioned long and hard to come indoors, but then had the arrogance to misbehave and bully the girls. We could not have that! Manners maketh the man I would quote to him over his windowsill supper many times. It can be a bit of work in progress some days. But he is a bit of a spirit animal for me, or familiar, or a Pullmanesque daemon.
The love for our companion animals (and they for us) is often complex. We since we do not share a common language. Apparently domestic cats only meow to communicate with humans. They enrich our lives immeasurably even as I complain about the amount of cat litter I have to change (there are four cats in this household.)
At any rate, I need to attend to my pet. So senryu it is for today. Haiku is concerned with nature. Senryu has the same number of syllables, but its concern his with human nature.
Limping cat snarls and snaps I offer soft words and strokes Now you purr
And simply for species equality I include one for the dogs. We have two dogs in the household as well. Then I need to become matron of Pet Hospital.
The auld dog's day: breathe, sleep, sniff air, sun bask the odd sprint for old time's sake
Have a good weekend. Happy Friday. Hug your fur babies. Pat a friend’s companion animal, but ask nicely first. Animals require that they give consent, too.
This is not how poetry practice should go. Poetry practice time should be a time of silence and reflection, with the rest of the household snoozing amicably and peacefully. It ideally begins with Earl Grey tea with a slice of lemon. But here I am playing cat monitor and chief peacekeeper as the fourth member of the pride of small lions gradually ventures out his isolation post-op and vaccinated.
The oldest cat, who is fifteen if she is a day and crotchety, is growling menacingly without moving a muscle. None of them mess with the matriarch. The second in succession tries to speak sense to the formerly feral street fighter and is biffed in return for her efforts. She slides under the sofa and yowls pathetically. I scoop up the glowering third in line of feline succession and am lacerated for my trouble. And not for the first time today. There was a 3am interaction when I took a toilet break and No 4 escaped. No. 3 let out a cry like some ancient Celtic warrior prior to battle. In the end, it was my pygammaed leg that was caught in the line of fire.
So as I type this there is the rhythmic rise and fall to cat yowls in various volume. A little night music it is not.
I only got around to doing the Saturday newspaper crossword last night. Figured I would do a bit of a crossword inspired acrostic poem this morning, taking two clues that intersect and write something. That’s been a challenge this morning. I may need a dose of valerian tincture before this is over.
To mop up... Reducing to a used nose wipe, Or limp tulip, Useless for all of its hype. Never go Courting being cavalier Ere you get left on your rear.
Sea bourn duck, Common also On freshwater loughs, Trounce a few Eiders with luck. Rebuked retinue.
It is such a new development in our two year long relationship, that I cannot bear to turf him off my lap to fetch the laptop I prefer to use for posting my ‘poetry daily.’ (Thank you, Sheri, for helping me see these posts in a differant light.) Felix, the slumbering, formerly feral, feline, is ensconced in my lap. He has heft now. Two years ago he was scrawny and all long leg and attitude. He began as a cat burglar stealing Our Girls’ food. Gradually, he tamed down, developed trust and learned not to claw the hand that controls the cat food tin. This Tuxedo Tom, as my college roomie styled him, is a handsome devil. How humans and animals bond is one of those wondrous mysteries. Love is always mystical, but all the more when those involved don’t share language. Felix has feline leukemia. He is also smart and has a strong will for surviving and living. He came in from the cold around this time last year. In increments, his defenses at complete domestication have fallen like dominoes. I gave him a little kiss on the top of his head yesterday and he looked completely abashed, both slightly undone and overcome. The trust building over years has eventuated in my being pinned down this morning during poetry practice.
I will have to get up presently. There are some children at Glangevlin’s National School expecting me to lead them on a haiku walk. But for now, I think of Basho, the haiku master, who also had a feline hanger on. And though the haiku poet was poor, he still offered love and barley to that cat at his door.
In truth it was a dream that had me going down a rabbit hole following references to symbols and meanings. I won’t bore you with details. Only those who truly love you are interested enough to listen to the the odd content of one’s night time dream life. Suffice to say, that it provided fodder for this morning’s dawn poetry practice. What I will add is that I was surprised to awaken and feel the heft of a cat sleeping in my lap. The surprise was that it was the Daddy’s Girl cat and not the Mummy’s Boy cat snuggling up. What have I done to deserve that honour and acclaim?
The path ahead may have dangers, but a black cat wears camouflage. A cat is a walking night scope, golden eyes a beacon in the night.
· elegant grace of night time burglar
· schooled in dark arts of sabotage
· willing to push the envelope
· handy enough in a fistfight
All skills for outweighing danger and headhunted for espionage. A cat’s paw is someone else’s hope who hasn’t got the moxy or might.
Every cat has its nine lives - facing anything will survive.
This poetry post is sheer self- indulgence. Or Felix indulgence. Because this wild cat who strolled into our garden the summer of 2016 probably never intended to audition to be a lap cat. But so has been his fate. And it is such a new development that I am reluctant to disturb him. So I am pinned down in bed, only one cup of tea down, with poetry practice to do. Without disturbing Himself. He is the complete cat who came in from the cold.
It has been quite the saga, which has captivated many of my Facebook friends as I chronicled each step forward and two scratches back. He started mid- summer 2016 as a cat burglar sneaking through the kitchen window stealing our cats’ grub. By January 2017 we were feeding him daily and had a cat kennel close to the house to keep an eye on his skinny, slightly mangey hide. By that October he was eating indoors from his own tray, sometimes clawing the hand that fed him,who was also trying to socialise him to petting. He had his own basket and would slide into the house at midnight to take up residence. In January 2018 he got into a fracas and injured his eye. He was in bad shape and I was able to bundle him into our little dog’s crate and get him to the vets. And he has remained, accepting that taming isn’t so bad. He was diagnosed with feline leukemia that visit, so needs warmth, good nutrition, and fun as it turns out. Because he seems to have discovered his inner kitten and just wants to play all the time, racing up and down the garden, climbing trees, rolling over to distract Tony from his gardening task.
Throughout this saga he has accrued many fans. Friends from Australia we hadn’t seen in twenty years were ecstatic to meet him in his transition towards taming. Another from Wisconsin wants to check in on him during her annual sojourns in Leitrim. A client on her first trip to Ireland from Vancouver had him on her itinerary! Felix has gone global.
So today, a new poetry form to try, that I can tap onto the mini- iPad with one finger. (I am SO in thrall to this critter. But it seems a bit mutual.) I have never tried the limerick. So here goes.