Last week, I described the biggest change in my life since the Sunday Poems went on hiatus as being that I moved across the country, and that was undoubtedly huge, but I left out something else which surely deserves its place: a few months ago my partner and I adopted a cat.
As a kid, I wasn’t particularly interested in animals. There were dogs around, but I never really understood them. I just knew they were loud, smelled bad and were ‘too licky’. I had a hamster, and a rabbit. Both were cute, but obviously afraid of anyone else, and not particularly playful.
My feelings changed when a succession of cats came into my life in my early twenties. They fascinated me, coy but not disinterested. Boundaries were communicated, and violation of them could mean claws or teeth. The process of learning the language of tails, ears, fur, and meows engrossed me. At this point, I feel that if I were to wake up as a cat one morning, I might stand a chance of being able to communicate with them. Perhaps I’m being optimistic.
Our cat, Handpig, is a small, black cat with tufts of white fur under her collar, like a cravat, and under her armpits or legpits--whatever you call them on a cat. She chirps and purrs like a motorboat. Her main, pleading meow sounds like a small child saying ‘no’, which I’ve come to learn in her case usually means yes. Sometimes she wakes me up in the morning by biting the tip of my nose, which is effective, and unpleasant. I’m careful to make sure that it’s never rewarded with an early breakfast. Hobbies include e-commerce (very cardboard box that arrives at our house is a new place to curl up, especially if brown paper was used to wrap the contents), hiding all of the toys we buy or make for her (check under the couch), and keeping watch at the window to make sure none of the other neighbourhood cats try to make a visit.
Sunday is a good day to visit your local animal shelter’s website. There you should be able to find pictures of animals who are currently stuck in small cages. They are being taken care of by helpful workers and volunteers, but are still probably scared, and not particularly healthy. Dust leads to allergy symptoms, cheap food leads to a host of health problems. Shelters perform the vital function of keeping animals alive, but they are kept in a state of suspended animation, slowly degrading until they can find themselves in a more permanent situation. Many animals return to a shelter several times, as those who adopt realize that they aren't really as into taking care of their new furry purrer after they've scratched a couch, bitten a person, or perhaps peed on the floor. Consider if you have the room in your life and your household to be a more permanent residence for one of these non-humans.
Below is a poem. If you like what you read please consider sharing with a friend. As always, I’m here to chat if you have any questions. Have a good week, everybody.
the smell of a small cat’s tongue on my fingertips
almost dinner time,
a bowl of soup
tuna for a small cat.
i am holding together again
for a small cat
moving around again
for a small cat.
a small cat meowing in the hall
cleaning a small desk
a moving truck
again, fresh bread is stiff
hovering against the pan
on a scattering of cornmeal.