The grey cat crouches
in the lush October grass,
wary and alert.
I’ve been a bit busy lately so this one is getting posted a few days after the photo was taken and the poem written. But here in the Pacific Northwest, the grass stays green all winter, so that hasn’t changed much. The grass is even greener now than in the peak of summer, when things often get a bit dry.
Funny thing, I can go for weeks without seeing a cat on my evening walks, but one day in October, it seemed like every cat in town was outside, either lurking in the foliage or dozing in the fast-departing patches of late afternoon sun.
They seemed to sense, like I, that the autumn rains would be coming soon. We all were taking advantage of the last dry days of Indian Summer.
On a trip to Hawaii several years ago, I wrote a lot of haiku. Something about being closer to Japan in a land influenced by Japan, I guess. On the big island, there are bands of feral cats. I tried to make friends. Of course, I had no control over the situation at all.
Today I bring cheese
my little wild black cat, but
you will not be bought
The haiku masters often mentioned cats. Issa wrote some of my favorites.
Remembering our recently departed and beloved cat … and Mark Twain’s quote is hitting home: “A home without a cat — and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat — may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove title.”
It seems that poets have kept cats and written about them throughout history. On a trip to Oregon a few years ago, I picked up a book called The Poetical Cat edited by Felicity Bast. It includes cat poems from all over the world … from the tombs of ancient Egypt … to the works of the Haiku masters … to Swinburne, Baudelaire, Yeats, and William Carlos Williams.
It is offering some comfort. Perhaps most apropos is Thomas Hardy’s Last Words to a Dumb Friend, which is an elegy for his beloved, departed pet. It goes on in his quaint, Victorian way that may sound stilted to our modern ears. But its final verse is beautiful and heartbreaking.
From Last Words to a Dumb Friend by Thomas Hardy
Housemate, I can think you still
Bounding to the window-sill,
Over which I vaguely see
Your small mound beneath the tree,
Showing in the autumn shade
That you moulder where you played.
Pretty sad, that verse.
If I tried to write an elegy I would probably blubber on and on longer than Hardy. So I won’t.
Instead, in honor of our dear and departed Quincy, I’ll offer a couple of cat haiku I’ve written over the years:
The old cat forgets
to groom his matted fur. But
there — on snow — feathers!
Little cat using
me for shade doesn’t care I’ve
nothing left to give
Waking with a stretch
the cat falls off the bed’s edge —