Poetry for Cats: The Definitive Anthology of Distinguished Feline Verse

Ah, fish, there is no fare
Quite like a flounder! They surely will not miss
A piece or two from stacks of sole like this;
I'll steal a few, but leave the lion's share.
Look! the lamplight on the lane is pretty
They're back from walking out on Dover Beach.
I think I'll hide and spare myselpf the speech,
For we are in a world untouched by pity
Where ignorant humans curse the kitty."

(From Dover Sole)

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, 'Do I shed?' and, 'Do I shed?'
Time to turn back and stretch out on the bed,
And give myself a bath before I'm fed --
(They will say: 'It's the short-haired ones I prefer.')
My flea collar buckled neatly in my fur,
My expression cool and distant but softened by a gentle purr --
(They will say: 'I'm allergic to his fur!')
Do I dare
Jump up on the table?
In an instant there is time
For excursions and inversions that will make me seem unstable."

(From The Love Song of J. Morris Housecat)

Behold the day-break!
I awaken you by sitting on your chest and purring in your face,
I stir you with muscular paw-prods, I rouse you with toe-bites,
Walt, you have slept enough, why don't you get up?"

(From Meow of Myself, from LEAVES OF CATNIP)

Abyssinias

"I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: A huge four-footed limestone form
Sits in the desert, sinking in the sand.
Its whiskered face, though marred by wind and storm,
Still flaunts the dainty ears, the collar band
And feline traits the sculptor well portrayed:
The bearing of a born aristocrat,
The stubborn will no mortal can dissuade.
And on its base, in long-dead alphabets,
These words are set: "Reward for missing cat!
His name is Abyssinias, pet of pets;
I, Ozymandias, will a fortune pay
For his return. he heard me speak of vets --
O foolish King! And so he ran away.

From CATS ARE KIND

"A man said to the universe,
'Sir, I exist!'
'Excellent,' replied the universe,
'I've been looking for someone to take care of my cats.

From CATS ARE KIND

"I saw a dog pursuing automobiles;
On and on he sped.
I was puzzled by this;
I accosted the dog.
'If you catch one,' I said
'What will you do with it?'

'Dumb cat,' he cried,
And ran on.

If you can try to nap where someone's sitting,
Although there is another empty chair,
Then rub against his ankle without quitting
Until he rises from your favorite lair;
If you can whine and whimper by a portal
Until the bolted door is opened wide,
Then howl as if you've got a wound that's mortal
Until he comes and lets you back inside;

If you can give a guest a nasty spiking,
But purr when you are petted by a thief;
If you can find the food not to your liking
Because they put some cheese in with the beef;
If you can leave no proffered hand unbitten,
And pay no heed to any rule or ban,
then all will say you are a Cat, my kitten.
And -- which is more -- you'll make a fool of Man!

Hamlet's Cat's Soliloquy

"To go outside, and there perchance to stay
Or to remain within: that is the question:
Whether 'tis better for a cat to suffer
The cuffs and buffets of inclement weather
That Nature rains on those who roam abroad,
Or take a nap upon a scrap of carpet,
And so by dozing melt the solid hours
That clog the clock's bright gears with sullen time
And stall the dinner bell. To sit, to stare
Outdoors, and by a stare to seem to state
A wish to venture forth without delay,
Then when the portal's opened up, to stand
As if transfixed by doubt. To prowl; to sleep;
To choose not knowing when we may once more
Our readmittance gain: aye, there's the hairball;
For if a paw were shaped to turn a knob,
Or work a lock or slip a window-catch,
And going out and coming in were made
As simple as the breaking of a bowl,
What cat would bear the houselhold's petty plagues,
The cook's well-practiced kicks, the butler's broom,
The infant's careless pokes, the tickled ears,
The trampled tail, and all the daily shocks
That fur is heir to, when, of his own will,
He might his exodus or entrance make
With a mere mitten? Who would spaniels fear,
Or strays trespassing from a neighbor's yard,
But that the dread of our unheeded cries
And scraches at a barricaded door
No claw can open up, dispels our nerve
And makes us rather bear our humans' faults
Than run away to unguessed miseries?
Thus caution doth make house cats of us all;
And thus the bristling hair of resolution
Is softened up with the pale brush of thought,
And since our choices hinge on weighty things,
We pause upon the threshold of decision.

Mealtime

"A mousie squealing in a trap
Woke me from my morning nap.
Wasn't he so very sweet
To tell me it was time to eat?"

(From A CAT'S GARDEN OF VERSES)

I situate myself, and seat myself,
And where you recline I shall recline,
For every armchair belonging to you as good as belongs to me.

I loaf and curl up my tail
I yawn and loaf at my ease after rolling in the catnip patch."

(From Meow of Myself, from LEAVES OF CATNIP)

The End of the Raven

"On a night quite unenchanting, when the rain was downward slanting
I awakened to the ranting of the man I catch mice for.
Tipsy and a bit unshaven, in a tone I found quite craven,
Poe was talking to a Raven perched above the chamber door.
'Raven's very tasty,' thought I, as I tiptoed o'er the floor.
'There is nothing I like more.'

[...]

Still the Raven never fluttered, standing stock-still as he uttered
In a voice that shrieked and sputtered, his two cents' worth -- 'Nevermore.'
While this dirge the birdbrain kept up, oh, so silently I crept up,
Then I crouched and quickly leapt up, pouncing on the feathered bore.
Soon he was a heap of plumage, and a little blood and gore --
Only this and not much more.

The Prologue to TERRITORY LOST

"Of cats' first disobedience, and the height
Of that forbidden tree whose doom'd ascent
Brought man into the world to help us down
And made us subject to his moods and whims,
For though we may have knock'd an apple loose
As we were carried safely to the ground,
We never said to eat th'accursed thing,
But yet with him were exiled from our place
With loss of hosts of sweet celestial mice
And toothsome baby birds of paradise,
And so were sent to stray across the earth
And suffer dogs, until some greater Cat
Restore us, and regain the blissful yard,
Sing, heavenly Mews, that on the ancient banks
Of Egypt's sacred river didst inspire
That pharaoh who first taught the sons of men
To worship members of our feline breed:
Instruct me in th'unfolding of my tale;
Make fast my grasp upon my theme's dark threads
That undistracted save by naps and snacks
I may o'ercome our native reticence
And justify the ways of cats to men.

To a Vase

"How do I break thee? Let me count the ways.
I break thee if thou art at any height
My paw can reach, when, smarting from some slight,
I sulk, or have one of my crazy days.
I break thee with an accidental graze
Or twitch of tail, if I should take a fright.
I break thee out of pure and simple spite
The way I broke the jar of mayonnaise.
I break thee if a bug upon thee sits.
I break thee if I'm in a playful mood,
And then I wrestle with the shiny bits.
I break thee if I do not like my food.
And if someone they shards together fits,
I'll break thee once again when thou art glued.

Let us roam then, you and I,
When the evening is splayed out across the sky
[...]
Paths that follow like a nagging accusation
Of a minor violation
To lead you to the ultimate reproof ...
Oh, do not say, 'Bad kitty!'
Let us go and prowl the city.

In the rooms the cats run to and fro
Auditioning for a Broadway show."

(From The Love Song of J. Morris Housecat)

The noisy jay swoops by and reviles me, he complains of my meow and my malingering.

I too am not a bit subdued, I too am uncontrollable,
I sound my splenetic yowl over the roof of the house."

(From Meow of Myself, from LEAVES OF CATNIP)

You can never know where I am or what I am,
But I am good company to you nonetheless,
And really do regret I broke your inkwell."

(From Meow of Myself, from LEAVES OF CATNIP)