How sublime nature made you, my dear:
Your short, glossy fur, softer than velvet,
Your gait lilting and sensuous,
The emerald fire of your eyes as they seize the light,
The swishing of your tail, like a furry snake;
The way you brush my legs as you pass,
Circling, nuzzling my shoe with your pretty little head,
Then padding away to the bed
Where you fastidiously lick and comb yourself
In the charming way that your kind do.

Weary of my rigors at the piano,
Dazed with the languid liquor of fatigue,
Drained of any particular inspiration or intent,
I think I'll sit with you awhile.
So perch yourself on your throne, darling,
That red-cushioned footstool so befitting a tiny queen,
That I may admire you.

I've always loved your kind,
Tigers and tabbies, plump yellow kittens,
Calicoes and sleek, shadowy black-cats.
It pleases me to watch you at play:
Pouncing on skittering balls of yarn,
Leaping ecstatically to catch and shred a waved Kleenex,
Batting softly at the stranger reflected in the window,
Or running deftly up the stair railing to peer down at me.

And how you love to hide...
When I was younger, I used to hide too,
Under the bed where my mother couldn't find me.
She'd look all over the house for me, and then,
Finally I'd sneak up from behind and surprise her.
Misty would hide there too.
Sadly, she didn't appreciate my company there,
And once gave me a scratch across the eyes for good measure.
But I forgave her.

There was another cat I grew up with
Who would conceal herself in the vast expanse of our bedroom closets.
From there she could get into the ceiling where no-one but her could go,
But more often she'd sit on the shelves under the clothes,
And I'd go in to get a pair of trousers
And be greeted with strangely muted and detached meows.
She would be there somewhere, hiding behind a curtain of shirts.
Oh, she was clever, a witty kitty indeed.
She knew that if she was naughty,
Dashing around the house in a galloping frenzy,
Or pestering us at dinner, that someone would let her outside,
And she knew that if she jumped onto the balcony at 1:00 a.m.
And cried long enough, that we would let her in.
She had an unusual personality for a feline,
Friendly with strangers, she'd hop right up into their laps,
Though sometimes to their consternation.
She was talkative too, answering our voices in her own strange tongue.

But you, my dear,
You're not as bold.
On the few occasions when I have strangers over,
You flee upstairs and hide under the bed,
And there you remain for the entire evening
Until the late hours when they have departed.
The hurt look shows when you emerge to greet me,
And your cries sound mournfully.
I understand.
As I pet you consolingly, I feel guilty,
For though we share the same house,
We are distant, you and I, different breeds,
You curled up one branch of Darwin's tree,
Me brooding to myself on another.
It seems I've grown too big to hide under the bed
So now my apartment has to suffice.

Another afternoon expires—
Stay with me, my dear.
You can hide from the world with me if you like,
And though you can never satisfy my deepest longing,
I'll take care of you,
Feed you milk and soft cat-food,
Pet and brush your silky coat,
And we can listen to Debussy together
As the hours drift by like strewn autumn leaves.

George Chadderdon © 1994