The Love Song of J. Morris Housecat
by T.S. Eliot's Cat

Cat with Heart

M'io muoiano muole miglio miu'
miel ma miogni noi par lamiaou
muoi m'uomi miure ne piu'
miolo muolano mio siamiaou.
                         Dante's Cat

Let us roam then, you and I,
When the evening is splayed out across the sky
Like a kitten neutered on a laboratory slab;
Let us stray on paths through neighbors' yards
Behind the boulevards
Where raccoons scuttle in the refuse bins
Scattering cellophane and potato skins:
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.

The soft white fog that rises from the rubbish heap,
The soft white cloud that surges through the rubbish heap,
Flows into the corners of the million-dollar set.
The wave of dry-ice smoke that rolls waist-deep
Lathers the human actors' fake-fur suits
As they ham it up to the music's beats,
Forms into pools in the orchestra pit,
And leaves a chemical smell on the front-row seats.

And indeed there will be time.
For the soft white smoke that spills along the stage,
Curling in wisps around the rubbish heap;
There will be time, there will be time
To calculate in human years your feline age.
There will be time to wheedle and cajole
Time to beg the guests who come to tea
To drop leftover tidbits in your bowl;
Time to sniff at a kitchen scrap,
And time yet for some unforeseen obsessions,
And time for new digressions and transgressions,
Before the taking of another nap.

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

Sid in the window, graphic by © Dr. Wes Browning And indeed there will be time
To wonder, "Do I shed?" and, "Do I shed?"
Time to turn back and stretch out upon 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.

For I have known the ones who feed me, known them all --
Have known my humans well and leaned against their shins,
I have measured out my lives in catfood tins;
I know the voices calling with a singsong call:
But is it dinner, or is it time to hide?
And should I go outside?

And I have known the hands already, known them all --
The hands that pet you while you try to take a nap.
The brusque insistent thumbs, the fingers lacking tact,
And when I am kneaded like a bread-dough ball,
Then how should I react?
Should I cough up a furball in your lap?
Then should I go outside?

And I have known the feet, already known them all --
Feet that are booted or slippered or bare
(And tread upon your tail when you lie along the stair.)
And is it true it rankles
When I rub against your ankles?
Feet that cross beneath the table, or walk along the hall.
So should I go outside?
And then demand to come back in?

            * * * * *

Do you know, I have walked along the neat suburban streets
And seen the hand-drawn posters of missing cats
Stapled to the maples where poodles lift their legs?...

I should have been two pairs of spotted paws
Padding across a sea of sighing grass.

            * * * * *

Sid taking the executive chair And in the afternoon, the evening, I sleep so fitfully,
Tickled by a bony digit,
I sleep... but you notice that I fidget.
Stretched out beside you on the old settee,
Should I, after liver snacks and tastes of last night's roast,
Chase a ball or claw my scratching post?
For though I have hissed and growled and hissed and spat,
Though I have brought a mouse (grown slightly cold)
and dropped it on the landing, I am no predator --
life outdoors is too demanding.
I like a proper dinner and my kitty litter.
I have seen the Infernal Vet
inspect my teeth, and twitter.
In short, I am a 'fraidy cat.

And would it have been worth it after all,
Amid the broken cups, the nibbled plants,
Amid the cat hairs on your best gray pants,
Amid the claw marks in the carpet pile,
Would it have been worth my while
To have dropped a half-dead chipmunk in the hall
And left it squirming like a pregnant pause,
As if to say, "I would have purchased you a pocket watch instead,
But as a cat, I lacked the wherewithal" --
Or if sitting on a pillow by your head,
My look might mean: "I am not sure what I am doing here at all.
I am an animal, after all."

And would it then be worth while, after all,
Would it then be worth my while,
Amid the splintered chair legs and the lacerated rugs,
Amid the scratches on the banister,
amid the shredded drapes that frame the terrace door,
Amid the fragments on the floor --
If I could shatter my mystique,
If that bitter yellow fluid from the bottle with the dropper could enable me to speak,
Then would it be worthwhile
If, sitting on the sofa in my customary sprawl,
I should turn in your direction, and remark:
"I am really not upset at all.
I just grew tired of my rubber ball."

            * * * * *

Sid supervising from floor level No, I am not a Practical Cat, nor was I meant to be;
I am a household pet -- I will suffice
To warm an empty room, dispatch some mice,
Distract you with my play, amuse a guest:
An easy pet to own, a small expense,
Fastidious, a bit inscrutable,
Temperamental, quick to take offense;
At times, indeed, wholly unsuitable --
Almost, at times, a pest.

I grow fat... I grow fat...
I shall wear white woolen booties and a silly hat.

Shall I have my fur shampooed? Do I dare to eat some quiche?
I shall wear a little jacket and walk upon a leash.
I will never knock the knickknacks from their niche.

I do not think they'll have me put to sleep.

I have seen the tomcats in the vacant lots
Parading through the ash piles in a pack
With their tails hooked high and their ears bent back.

We will gather on a fuming rubbish heap
And prowl the musty alleys of a slum
Till human voices call us, and we come.

This poem was circulated on the Internet without attribution, but I have tracked it down to Henry Beard, Poetry for Cats: the Definitive Anthology of Distinguished Feline Verse. New York: Villard Books, 1994. You can purchase the book wherever you go for your literature, but if you happen to buy it at Amazon by following the above link, a portion of the proceeds will go to the Real Change Homeless Empowerment Project, and indirectly help to keep Sid entertained.

Sid's Collection