Five Cat Poems (in memory of Little Bear)

Little Cat Man

Our cat sleeps like a little man,
his head on a pillow, his legs
stretched toward the end of the bed.
His feet twitch like my wife’s.

As if he only sleeps, and sleeps
on our bed only, and nowhere else.
But I know better; I’ve seen him,
his secret self, cruel, and a killer,

seen him nail a mouse by its tail
with a single claw then slowly
draw the quivering creature
into his deadly web of play,

toss it into the predawn sky,
leaping paws first to bat, to snag,
to pin again to the moonlit grass
that once unsuspecting mouse.

How insidious, how mesmerizing
this sport in its purest form. I could watch
for hours were I not caught up
in my own mean game.

He’s no slouch, our cat;
he’s the master of his art,
for which I admire him,
for which I stand in awe.

Here he lies fast asleep, but yesterday
he dined on breast, on heart, on all
but feather, beak, and bone
of an innocent bird.

Butterflies have fallen at his paws.
Even the yellowjacket has flown in terror.
The common household fly,
who climbs the walls to safety,

must forever beware, for with
one long leap from a dresser,
one long outstretched forearm—
in the cup of five sharp claws,

he’ll drag it down to the floor
into his circle of pain,
to join the others
in his playmate cemetery.

Sleep, little cat man.
Sleep off the play that’s work,
the work that’s play.
Twitch it out on our bed.

Your life is as busy and as full
as those who sleep beside you
and watch you twitch and dream,
grateful you’re no bigger than you are!

Little Bear, 1994-2012

Little Bear, 1994-2012

Our Cat Understands the Principle of a Door

Our cat understands
the principle of a door,
that it opens when I turn the knob,
that he’d better move his tail
if he doesn’t want it caught
as I push the door shut.

He understands that outside the door
lurk all his enemies
—the bright-eyed cat-blind car,
the great rumbling Sphinx of the bus,
the single-minded dog, the irascible raccoon—
that rare but ruthless cat-hater—
but mostly other cats.

He who inside the door
is safe and can sleep deeply
without disturbance,
without having to keep an eye
ajar. He commands me
in his wordless way
to open the door, he yells at me
to close it again
in the face of a storm,
he yells at me some more
for ever having allowed a storm
to howl outside his door
when all he wanted was a cozy sun.

And he knows the complaints
he expresses inside the door
are for my ears only,
his personal doorman
and cat-brained confidant.

Zen Cat

Zen Cat

Cat Tao

How does our cat know
where next to lick?
Why the nonexistent balls
just after the lifted thigh?

Why flop down
against the wall
and not on a pillow today?
Why not warm my lap?

A crow’s caw in the distance
turns his ear. His tongue
hesitates as he reads
the crow’s message,

then he goes on licking,
knowing the one true way.

Quite the character!

Quite the character!

Cat Love

Our cat can’t hide his love.
He plays hard to get, turns away.
Miffed, he stalks off peeved,
flicks his tail, biting fleas
he no longer has.

Our cat can’t hide his love.
In the end he pads up on my chest
where I lie on my back
dead with fatigue and half asleep,
and demands, with full abandonment
to looking the fool,
all the love in my sleepy state
I can muster up.

He drools on my neck,
looks me, finally, straight in the eye,
his whole shimmering feline face
beginning to smile.

Our cat can’t hide his love.
He purrs louder and louder,
the bed begins to tremble
and, beginning to grin,
I wonder what was ever
the matter with this world.

The Late-Night Cat Workout

Our fourteen-year-old cat
has no intention
of dying anytime soon.
When we go to bed,
once we’ve fallen asleep
(or I play dead, tired
of rubbing his tummy),
he romps alone
across the hardwood floors
of the great-room downstairs,
dashes from wall to wall,
slips and slides around imaginary corners
(chasing or being chased, who can tell?),
hits the throw rugs full speed,
leaving them in crumpled heaps,
beats up on his catnip mouse
(gets a snoot-full too)
bats his ball from paw to paw,
(not unlike a soccer star),
scratches his scratch post,
crunches kibble, laps up water,
then, exhausted, resigns himself
to his nest on the desk by our bed
where he snores like a spouse.

Cat Love

Cat Love

Cat Hat

dedicated to the SPCA

We played our cat
till we killed that cat,
so just for fun

we skinned that little tiger
(he was just so fat),
but what a hat we made of that cat!

We skinned him as we loved him….
Hell, anyone can wear a hat,
but only if you’re lucky

can you wear a cat hat.
We thought he’d make a lovely bowler,
be it small and comical,

or a hat like a dunce’s
which would make him conical.
Or like his distant cousin,

the ring-tailed raccoon….
Well, how about a cat-skin hat?
Or a Siamese top hat, a purring Stetson,

or worse, a yowling French beret?
We stretched him on the ironing board,
we said, We’ll miss you, Cat,

then we steamed him flat
and stitched him up
so he looked just like

a cat, our cat,
a cat hat to wear upon my head
even as I go to bed.

Copyright 2015 by Rick Clark

Old friend!

Old friend!