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No Cats Have Been Maimed or Mutilated During the Making of this Book . . . But Some of Them Are Disappointed -- DEEPLY Disappointed -- in Me

Low tho' she walks

Low Though She Walks

The cat is my shepherd; always she wants.
She leadeth me downstairs to her food dish where,
though it is an easy jump for her,
she maketh me to lift her up,
or if I do not,
squawks her sour little squawk of want
repeatedly, the only sound more nagging
than a baby's whine, more hateful
than the juicy shploth shploth shploth
of a dog's tongue, ceaselessly licking himself
at 2 in the morning.
She greets me at the door and instantly begins
to lead me the way she would have me take her -
runs ahead, pauses to make sure I move with her,
and if not, insists with her swishing tail,
her flat cry of want.
When she would go out, she escorts me to the door,
sits facing it, all prim, shoulders snugly hunched,
forepaws daintily paired - Momma's little pet,
only the tip of her tail twitching,
her whole being become an arrow pointing at the door
as if to say OPEN HERE.
She is shepherd of hands as well as feet.
If she finds them otherwise occupied,
stubbornly she presses her small head against them
(wanting) until they drop their pens, remote controls,
spoons and forks, to stroke her -
and then they must stroke exactly the right place,
for when she's had enough on the skull,
she moves her delicate chin against fingertips,
sharply protesting cursory inattentive stroking
or too much or too little handling,
as hard to satisfy as a lover who hasn't yet told you
she's in love with another.
If hands ignore her (and perhaps she knows
it is we who move the hands), she lips them
ever so gently, so gently (raspy little touch
of tongue), then suddenly tiny teeth (we call it
a lovebite) cannot be ignored.
If, at night, when she wants to perch on my chest
and be stroked, I keep my hands under the cover,
she catches my eyes in hers, nudges forward until I feel
on the tip of my nose the cold wet electric touch of hers.
Then her face withdraws, she reaches out a tentative paw
to touch - barely touch - my chin,
the tentative paw sprouts less tentative claws and,
if I let the process escalate,
I may be deeply touched.
If I roll her off, she is careful to slink away
across my pillow, pausing, tail high, to flaunt
an inch from my face her furry bottom,
then leap from bed to bed table,
where she paws a wristwatch or ring
to the floor, leaps after it and, with agile puck work,
knocks it into the most inaccessible under-bed cranny.
She is the shepherd, too, of laps and special spaces -
sheets of paper upon which she can sit, Sphinx-like,
or bags or boxes or shelves she can occupy -
and of attention, which she has determined the dog
shall not have, ever, to himself.
And if, turning to stone, we repulse all demands,
thoroughly thwart her, deaf to her cries,
thrust her aside (because we are busy and because -
O thank the Lord! - because we are much much
bigger than she is), then she strolls away,
stops to face us and lick herself,
long, tongue-stretching, rhythmic licks
(to tell us she doesn't give a damn?
to recover her cool? to make herself new and better,
more worthy of cuddling? to rid herself
of our now despised spoor? to release nervous energy,
as if puttering over housework?),
perhaps even assuming the drumstick-up, snout-down position
of industrial-strength crotch cleaning,
then settles on a cushioned chair and is instantly
asleep, a limp, tufted circle as undemanding
as the cushion, unimaginable that this tiny
silver-grey tigered ball of softness could ever loom
hugely over us, an insatiable maw of wanting.
Lightly touch her - she purrs against your touch,
such a good cat: She shall not want, no,
she shall never want.

Selected Short Poems:

The cat's rear rises
To meet my stroke...and is gone!
Was I not worthy?

If only this sheet of paper
could attract poems as easily
as it attracts the cat.

Cat on the couch,
Still as any cushion,
Except, hanging from the edge,
The tail, almost still, just the tip
Bends up...unbends...bends...unbends...
On the carpet, watching,
A cat.

A tiny bit of night
ripples toward me, detaches
at my leg, purring.

Along the sofa,
a sentence of cushions--
for period, this cat.

  Big Cats in Snow
Tuesday, July 11, 2000