As I Walked out one Summer Morning

August 16, 2010 § 1 Comment


On the way home from the farmer’s market, bags heavy with raspberries, strawberries, haricots verts and heirloom tomatoes, I stopped in at Petco to ogle the shelter cats.
Usually there’s one or two that are appealing. Today there was a cat that looked just like Fitzroy asleep in a bottom cage. He was younger and slimmer, but the line of lip against the feathery white jaw was exactly the same.
And there were two lovely, gangly adolescent males, mostly white with gray and black, scribbled splotches, maybe five months old. They were tabbies but their faces were long and narrow, like greyhounds, and their expressions were tender and sweet.

But the winners—the heartstoppers—were two five-year-old brothers curled up together in a cage. I couldn’t tell where one started and the other stopped. They were both black, though one had white paws. No white anywhere else. Their coats were glossy and they were big, healthy and powerful looking.Their features were clearly delineated and perfect, and their eyes were the sage green of a desert in spooky light. Did I mention how black they were, like night squared? How they lay in their cage like kidnapped princes? Their owner had had to leave the country. Or perhaps merely wanted to. If he/she/they went gaily off to France without finding these royals a home, the loss of a finger from each is warranted.

They looked at me with something between indifference and rage. If only I had any, I would use my demonic strength to rip the front off their cage, let them glide away, and be gone myself before anyone noticed. They’d wait outside to offer a guarded thanks, not certain how much I knew. I’d pledge fealty. If this were a poem, an airplane the size of a pony would land nearby and my young parents would be making love nearby in the snow. There’s no reason for this to be a poem; I’m just saying.

I tried to rhapsodize to the teenage boy next to me, but he mumbled and turned away. So I went home—opened the door into my too small, too warm, too cluttered apartment—and Fitzroy greeted me with his anxious affection from his perch on the back of the couch, torso humping up like a corduroy accordion, and Mouchette walked back and forth (and back and forth) across the keyboard as I checked my email, shedding black hairs between the letters. They were so deeply familiar, so known to me and knowing of me, my all day, every day companions, that the stunning green-eyed brothers were revealed as merely cats.

The Cat in the Kitchen
(For Donald Hall)

Have you heard about the boy who walked by
The black water? I won’t say much more.
Let’s wait a few years. It wanted to be entered.
Sometimes a man walks by a pond, and a hand
Reaches out and pulls him in.

There was no
Intention, exactly. The pond was lonely, or needed
Calcium, bones would do. What happened then?

It was a little like the night wind, which is soft,
And moves slowly, sighing like an old woman
In her kitchen late at night, moving pans
About, lighting a fire, making some food for the cat.

Robert Bly


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§ One Response to As I Walked out one Summer Morning

  • Oh, you do write so annoyingly beautifully about animals. Your descriptions are just perfect – those proud, aloof kidnapped princes – but also the tabbies with faces ‘like greyhounds, tender and sweet.’ Each thursday I have a lunch with a friend, and I always insist on stopping by the local pet shelter on the way back to show him a gorgeous plump maramalade cat with a face like a French coquette who I am convinced would bring him the happiness he is is searching for in life.

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