Start with the animals, Buddha once said.
So I do.
The cat wants to go out. It is badgering me to let it out in the balmy evening where all sorts of adventure await.
But I want it to stay inside, settle down like me.
It is so easy to be mean.
I open the door.
I must open my heart a little more as well.
My girl and I sometimes send unpleasant texts to each other. It is what couples who are not quite couples do.
I think the meanness in my texts should be let out too.
I open the door. It dithers.
I give it a swift kick up the backside and send it on its way.
I begin my text message anew.
The cat left no suicide note
unlike the farmer who died
in the same way
head swathed in cling wrap
like a cellophane mummy
he met with foul play.
His wife the killer — Insurance —
eager for a big pay.
But who would asphyxiate a cat
& dump it by the riverside
where dreamy poets wander
& children play?
The Cat inside me cannot settle.
“Do you want to go in or out?” I say.
She does not know.
She winds her way around my feet then nips my ankle.
“Okay, okay, I get it. You want food.
You always want food,”
I bend down, give her some leftovers
“You were only fed a few hours ago,” I say.
“No. Not croissants”, she says.
“And certainly not a banana. I’m not a fucking monkey.
I want Stone Baked Ciabatta Loaf with honey.”
She is anything if not specific.
But, of course, we haven’t any.
I drive down to the supermarket, my inner cat
Turning with anticipation.
I get home. Give her some.
She’s satisfied. And so am I.
We both flop on the mattress and have
an afternoon nap.
The cat inside me purrs.
You know what happiness is? he said.
Contentment? I suggested.
Not even close, he said through the burnished orange of this late autumn afternoon.
Come on, he said. You know better that that.
Then what? I asked.
It’s not true what they say about cats, you know. That old proverb about curiosity killed the cat. It’s to stop you changing lanes.
You’re beginning to sound like a zen poet, I said. Like Li Po.
Become like a cat, he said. Go out into the world, cat-curious. You can never NOT be happy if you’re finding out things.
do you agree?
where is happiness found for you?
what is the chief impediment for happiness, do you think?
Proceed With Caution, the sign said
But I proceeded anyway
& came upon a cat
On the cold hillside
Damp with dew
Helmeted in cling wrap
& wished the hell I hadn’t
The cat had just killed a canary.
Bad, bad cat, said the bird lover who was staying at my place for the weekend.
Easy, I said, Remember what happened at the restaurant last night when you ordered barramundi for the first time and complained it was too fishy?
Well, I said, you may as well berate a barramundi for being a fish as to castigate a cat for killing a canary.
It’s Milly’s birthday today.
Yes. But what do you buy a cat who has everything?
Yes. The next time she gets on the roof and can’t get down all she has to do is jump.
on a bus seat with sunglasses
smoking a cigarette,
on a pedestal wearing a tiny
camouflage boonie hat,
floating on a little pillow in a
wading pool with flowers
behind its ears,
& in ninety other poses —
and because it had no eyes
that cat from Abu Ghraib
they put pebbles in the sockets
of its mummified head
which looked out at the world
with a blank stare..
[ based on a New Yorker story on Sabrina Harriman: the woman
behind the camera at Abu Ghraib]
I hate being a cat, she says.
Not that I’m a wuss
But there’s more minuses than pluses
at being someone’s puss.
You have to wait until they’re ready
To get food put into yr bowl
The one you sit behind so patiently
and try not to scowl.
And when they have a friend stay
Then it’s a hey diddle-diddle
You’re no longer alpha female
but playing second fiddle.
I like to go out and in, she says
Or in and out at will
But someone sadly has other ideas
Which is why I’m here still.
Oh I could write a novel, she wails
There’d be fury on every page
Not that I’m a Prima Donna
But I like being centre stage.