Friday, July 14, 2017

I Wish I'd Written This

Ode to  the Cat

The animals were imperfect,
unfortunate in their heads.
Little by little they
put themselves together,
making themselves a landscape,
acquiring spots, grace, flight.
The cat,
only the cat
appeared complete and proud:
he was born completely finished,
walking alone and knowing what he wanted.

Man wants to be fish or fowl,
the snake would like to have wings
the dog is a disoriented lion,
the engineer would like to be a poet,
the fly studies to be a swift,
the poet tries to imitate the fly,
but the cat
only wants to be a cat
and any cat is a cat
from his whiskers to his tail,
from his hopeful vision of a rat
to the real thing,
from the night to his golden eyes.

There is no unity
like him,
the moon and the flower
do not have such context:
he is just one thing
like the sun or the topaz,
and the elastic line of his contours
is firm and subtle like
the line of a ship's prow.
His yellow eyes
have just one
to coin the gold of night time.

Oh little
emperor without a sphere of influence
conqueror without a country,
smallest living-room tiger, nuptial
sultan of the sky,
of the erotic roof-tiles,
the wind of love
in the storm
you claim
when you pass
and place
four delicate feet
on the ground,
all that is terrestrial,
because everything
is too unclean
for the immaculate foot of the cat.

Oh independent wild beast
of the house
vestige of the night,
lazy, gymnastic
and alien,
very deep cat,
secret policeman
of bedrooms,
of a
disappeared velvet,
surely there is no
in your manner,
perhaps you are not a mystery,
everyone knows of you
and you belong
to the least mysterious inhabitant,
perhaps everyone believes it,
everyone believes himself the owner,
of a cat,
or friend
of his cat.

Not me.
I do not subscribe.
I do not know the cat.
I know it all, life and its archipelago,
the sea and the incalculable city,
the gyneceum and its frenzies,
the plus and the minus of mathematics,
the volcanic frauds of the world,
the unreal shell of the crocodile,
the unknown kindness of the fireman,
the blue atavism of the priest,
but I cannot decipher a cat.
My reason slips on his indifference,
his eyes have golden numbers. 

– Pablo Neruda (1904-1973)

Normally I'd put this in 'The Living Dead', but I very recently used a Neruda poem that way – and besides, being a great admirer of cats, how could I not wish I'd written this worshipful poem?

(Is it about a specific cat, cats in general, or the archetype of Cat, do you think? To me, it works as all three.)

I don't usually give you the same poet in such a short space of time – if at all – but this is such a treat that I couldn't  resist. I hope you enjoy it too.

For further information on Neruda, it is all here in that previous post about him.

Material shared in 'I Wish I'd Written This' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings remain the property of the copyright owners, usually their authors. The source of this photo of Neruda is unknown.

Extra: A little over three years ago, I posted a poem by Marian Haddad, Reverence, in 'I Wish I'd Written This'. I put a link on facebook as usual, and this year it showed up in Marian's facebook memories, which inspired her to ask me to share with you the following, which at the time she found herself too 'technologically challenged' to manage :

Thank you, Rosemary Nissen-Wade, dear friend, for having shared this, and to all who kindly took the time to read it, and for their generous words and reactions. I am moved by them---and grateful and honored it moved them.  With love and gratitude, Marian Haddad


  1. I love "His eyes have golden numbers." This is a perfect and beautiful description of a regal, they are!

    Thank you for this most enjoyable post, Rosemary. Great pick!

  2. What a wonderful poem about this noble beast....and whether 'domesticated' or 'wild' they seem to all possess the same soul which is perfectly captured here.

  3. Well done, Rosemary.

  4. A charming, intelligent bit of writing. A wonderful 'ride' of a read.

  5. Aw...This one's a cute poem. Really, what cannot a poet do! Such luxurious words about a cat! Thank you Rosemary :)

  6. I really like this poem, Rosemary! It definitely delves into all that it means to be a cat or to love a cat.

  7. I wish I'd written this, a poem that could stand side by side with "The Tyger" by William Blake. Love this so much"
    " His yellow eyes
    have just one
    to coin the gold of night time."

  8. Rose Mary I loved this poem and forwarded to several of my cat-lover friends. Thank you.


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