Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"No poems about cats" (M Bromberg)

"No poems about cats"
(M Bromberg)

There, at the last, is the instruction
in the abrupt style of the young, dismissive, a topic
beneath contempt of any serious poet:

"Absolutely no poems about cats."
What? You might as well command
thunder not to rattle your hat.

Mention your critical embargo
to Wallace Stevens and T.S. Eliot
and see where you go.

Even Burroughs, the old cat in the hat,
envied the con jobs of every sly tom
looking for shelter and a milk bottle: 

"Someone said 
that cats are the furthest animal
from the human model. 

It depends on what breed 
of humans you are referring to,"
he wrote, "and of course, what cats."

A writer must have words 
about cats, his, or the world's. 
Kerouac. Hemingway, of course. Twain:

"A cat is more intelligent 
than people believe, 
and can be taught any crime."

Who speaks for my old Dexter,
Dylan, or his sister Flame, whose rhyme
is worthy of a turn in any poem

as in a Broadway musical:
Grizabella's got nothing on the lady Flambeau.
And just so you know,

what of the unnamed hysteric calico
who rattles the nerves  at three a.m. 
with an aria outside your window?

Deny, deny, deny, you might,
but you'll get no sleep that night.
Papa Hemingway was right:

"One cat just leads to another."
Auden and his cat would tell you, too --
that is, if either of them cared enough to.

Beckett, and Ginsberg, and William Carlos Williams,
Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates,
PG Wodehouse and Robert Graves; 

and here's Abraham Lincoln:
"No matter how much cats fight 
there always seem to be more kittens."

No poems about cats? Editor, then
perhaps it's best to state it plain:
he'd just as soon leave you out in the rain.

Consider Christopher Smart just for a start.
Turn down Ray Bradbury? Jean-Paul Sartre? 
All right, editor,  if that's not art

don't expect a reply from cat.
It doesn't matter if he's out or in.
No one really speaks for him:

"Dogs come when they're called.
Cats will get back to you on that."
That's the cat's meow there, Jim.

"No poems about cats" by M Bromberg is written in response to the contemporary impression that feline companionship is beneath comment in many literary journals. The poem, previously unpublished, is dedicated to writers and their cat muses, and specifically to my tabby Dylan and his calico sister Flame, who have been the poet's familiar for many years. Dylan passed away of an apparent heart attack this morning, May 14. at the age of 18. The author will miss Dylan's 3rd-base chatter during Braves games. His passing should not go unremarked without poetic comment. 

(Photo of Dylan with his human by David Noah, May 2013.)

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