Woman with Marmalade Cat

July 9, 2009 § 4 Comments

yummy catI have no idea what I’m doing with my life. It bewilders me. I see how I got here from last fall—and to last fall from the year before—and to there from 2005…but I feel like I’ve been running very fast with my heart in a sieve.

I can say:  I want cats and gardens, tranquility and travel, more books published, the smile and charm of this or that human being, newness. I want all my accumulated (frail) wisdom as well as regaining the queenly self of my youth—the one that hid mostly, but with good reason. Not hiding hasn’t paid off yet. My fault, probably.

But enough of that. This post is in honor of Fitzroy, whom the gods sent to comfort and annoy me; to comfort by annoying, by his insistently meowing and biting me on the chin, knee and toe, which pulls me from unhappy torpor. The marmalade cat wants me up and loving him, only him—when I stroke the sleek Mouchette, Fitz’s ears twitch and his narrow face turns into the mask of a mountain lion. That would terrify me if he was twice my size, but the girl-cat merely hisses.

I try to get a little work done during the cat battles, because when they stop, the love-cat stalks me with his white fuzzy ears that are shell-pink inside (they glow in any light), his nose the color of a strawberry beginning to rot, his tawny eyes half-lidded. He pokes his pointed face into mine, strolls across the laptop and makes a line of z’s on the page.

He doesn’t like the way the laptop gives under his feet. He’d much prefer a typewriter, the curling page helpless. I never tell him about the old days, the days of cat heaven, when paper was king.

His white is the white of luxury and soft ice cream, his tabby is candied orange peel. He bunches his back up like an accordion when I caress him, or else lifts his rear, making a steep slope down to his fluffy neck. Holding himself in that regal position, he accepts the tribute of my kisses and silly love songs.

I adore him, but when he comes in to my room once too often, I pick up his sloppy weight and lug him to the living room. I keep him out with a doorstop of many heavy books. When he’s determined, he can move it, but he’s learning to handle banishment.

I wish I learned so quickly. Or maybe I did. Maybe I learned too well.

In the recent New Yorker profile of Nora Ephron, promoting her new movie about Julia Child, Child is quoted as saying something to the effect that one must carry on even if “The cat falls in the stew…” When I read that I was in exactly the mood where I wanted to put the cat in the stew, but didn’t have a stew handy. When the beloved becomes obstreperous, fantasies of violence arise, mediated by the desire to retain possession, to control and absorb, in short, to eat…I’ve nibbled on the menfolk at times. The cat nibbles on me. He doesn’t know how lucky he is I don’t bite off an ear.



Mouchette hunts a Perrier bottle cap, Fitzroy hunts Mouchette, and I hunt both with the camera. They dislike the camera. When they can, they turn their faces, denying me their glorious eyes. I’d need a movie camera to properly capture Mouchette because she’s always moving, pacing, playing, circling what interests her in a sinuous writhe that recalls to me Coleridge’s lines from Kubla Kahn

Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

When I was thirteen, I thought that described the life of the poet.
Drug dreams and thirteen year olds aren’t what they used to be. Now I have my cats and summer, and as long as I don’t think too much, all is well.

I’m going to see Camilla’s paintings today, during her Open Studio. I love her work. She said she was going to paint my portrait with Fitzroy. I can’t wait.




(This is only the first and third stanzas of this poem…you can look it up if you want more.)

The Jumblies

They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they went to sea:
In spite of all their friends could say,
On a winter’s morn, on a stormy day,
In a Sieve they went to sea!
And when the Sieve turned round and round,
And every one cried, `You’ll all be drowned!’
They called aloud, `Our Sieve ain’t big,
But we don’t care a button! we don’t care a fig!
In a Sieve we’ll go to sea!’
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve…

The water it soon came in, it did,
The water it soon came in;
So to keep them dry, they wrapped their feet
In a pinky paper all folded neat,
And they fastened it down with a pin.
And they passed the night in a crockery-jar,
And each of them said, `How wise we are!
Though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long,
Yet we never can think we were rash or wrong,
While round in our Sieve we spin!’
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

Edward Lear


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