Ode to The Cat: Honoring Pablo Neruda and All of Our Cats

 Ode To The Cat 

There was something wrong
with the animals:
their tails were too long, and they had
unfortunate heads.
Then they started coming together,
little by little
fitting together to make a landscape,
developing birthmarks, grace, flight.
But the cat,
only the cat
turned out finished,
and proud:

Follow up:
born in a state of total completion,
it sticks to itself and knows exactly what it wants.
Men would like to be fish or fowl,
snakes would rather have wings,
and dogs are would-be lions.
Engineers want to be poets,
flies emulate swallows,
and poets try hard to act like flies. 

But the cat
wants nothing more than to be a cat,
and every cat is pure cat
from its whiskers to its tail,
from sixth sense to squirming rat,
from nighttime to its golden eyes.
Nothing hangs together
quite like a cat: 

neither flowers nor the moon
such consistency.
It's a thing by itself,
like the sun or a topaz,
and the elastic curve of its back,
which is both subtle and confident,
is like the curve of a sailing ship's prow.
The cat's yellow eyes
are the only
for depositing the coins of night. 

O little
emperor without a realm,
conqueror without a homeland,
diminutive parlor tiger, nuptial
sultan of heavens
roofed in erotic tiles:
when you pass
in rough weather
and poise
four nimble paws
on the ground,
of all earthly things
(because everything
feels filthy
to the cat's immaculate paw),
you claim
the touch of love in the air. 

O freelance household
beast, arrogant
vestige of night,
lazy, agile
and strange,
O fathomless cat,
secret police
of human chambers
and badge
of burnished velvet!
Surely there is nothing
in your manner,
maybe you aren't a mystery after all.
You're known to everyone, you belong
to the least mysterious tenant.
Everyone may believe it,
believe they're master,
owner, uncle
or companion
to a cat,
some cat's colleague,
disciple or friend.
But not me.
I'm not a believer. 

I don't know a thing about cats.
I know everything else, including life and its archipelago,
seas and unpredictable cities,
plant life,
the pistil and its scandals,
the pluses and minuses of math.
I know the earth's volcanic protrusions
and the crocodile's unreal hide,
the fireman's unseen kindness
and the priest's blue atavism.
But cats I can't figure out.
My mind slides on their indifference.
Their eyes hold ciphers of gold. 

by Pablo Neruda
Meet all our cats: Isabelle, Grayson, Junebug, McDuff, Kit, Sweet William, and below here Lily.


  1. I love it! Cats are poetry in motion, so it's not surprising that they have inspired so many poets. One of my other favorites is "Curiosity" by Alistair Reid.

    Your cats are beautiful!

  2. Thank you for sharing this poem; I was searching for it online. And your cat friends are beautiful! :) If you have never read Rudyard Kipling's "The Cat That Walked by Himself" from his "Just So Stories", you must! It is so much better with the illustrations, so find that version if you can, but here is the text if the story. It ends with my favorite lines --
    "..when the moon gets up and night comes, he is the Cat that walks by himself, and all places are alike to him. Then he goes out to the Wet Wild Woods or up the Wet Wild Trees or on the Wet Wild Roofs, waving his wild tail and walking by his wild lone."
    Full text: http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/79/just-so-stories/1296/the-cat-that-walked-by-himself/
    Kind regards,


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