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Feral Cat (poem)

I'm a feral cat now
I will run when I see you
I will freeze in the frigid winds
I will take shelter as a thief stealing warmth under cold porches
I have found my place in the world
It is on the outside
It is here that I learned to suffer well and breathe free
A kind of air you do not know

Do not ask why I do nothing
It is better to stand still
Than to move backward with you and your civilization

I will fight the teeth and claws of wild creatures
That rip away my flesh
That I may sleep and dream
I have dug my hollow in the snow

Forgive me if I do not allow your hand
To leave its scent upon me
I must run from the vile smell of things
That you smear upon your skin

On a winter's morn you may find me sitting tall
In the merciful warmth of a golden sun
Melting away the cold chills of another night that I survived
Here you will look out your window and see me
You might leave me scraps of things that you call food
From a world controlled by your species
I will take them like a thief in kind
But you cannot control me
You or your children or your brothers
Might capture me
But I will only loathe you
If you could ever make me wear your chain

With all of my horrid wretched scars
I may not be perfect
But I am a thing of magnificient beauty
That you pity
However, it is I.... who pity you

You may very well be a wonderful person
If there is such a thing
But I know well and good the treachery of your kind
Out here I look into the eyes of wild cats

You might trace the lines of my death
A thousand times
Or find my body frozen in the ice of January
But I am more than a thousand miles away from you
Even when you startle me
With the horror of your touch

It is out here that I learned to dream
Amidst all the desperate days and nights of hunger
It is here that I found many wonders

It is my eyes that you love most of all
Because you know they have seen more than you can see
My eyes are the most beautiful eyes in all the world
You wish you could pluck them out and put them in a jar
You want eyes that can see in the darkness
These eyes can see the crows, the leaves and blades of tall grass
In a way you cannot
You live in this glass jar
Where you are dying in the poverty of your dreams

I do not love you and I could not care less
For your stupid dogs
I'm going to sleep now
You bore me


footnote: Started 2011 September 03 (8:10am/morning) in the south field of Cheesman Park, Denver. It was the coldest morning of the season so far. I was contemplating the coming winter and the possibility that I will remain intentionally homeless and living in my van two months after returning from France. The metaphor here is based on any feral cat but also describes a firsthand human view to the outsider world.

The poem is inspired by my previous experience getting to know the deep characters of a few feral cats whom I fed cheese and vegetarian food daily, while living in a house on a half acre wooded lot in northeast Ohio from 2004 to 2009. One of these cats was a female who showed up for her daily food with part of her flesh ripped away by an unknown animal. Another feral cat was her super-intelligent male lover, whose face was prone to display oft-comic or intensely wise expressions. They were playful together but drifted apart daily. The female eventually disappeared, presumably killed in nature or captured and killed by animal authorities, never to be seen again. A new female later appeared and partnered with the male. She gave birth to four kittens. One of the kittens was taken by a racoon as the mother protested loudly in the night. I attempted to ward off the racoon. I made a nest under the porch for the mother cat and her three remaining kittens, who she allowed me to handle and nurture until I had to leave Ohio. Their fate remains unknown.

During these years, I photographed these feral cats constantly, capturing their social playfulness, sun bathing, love expressions, mating, one instance of bird pursuit and the early growth of the four babies. In most cases this was a casual activity that I did while cooking food in the kitchen or eating a meal on the back porch looking back into the woods.

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© Vincent B. Rain

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