NaPoWriMo, Day 13: What About Cats?

Laura A. Conley “Fog” (based on a poem by Carl Sandburg)


Prompt: “Today, we challenge you to write a poem in which the words or meaning of a familiar phrase get up-ended. For example, if you chose the phrase “A stitch in time saves nine,” you might reverse that into something like: “a broken thread; I’m late, so many lost.” Or “It’s raining cats and dogs” might prompt the phrase “Snakes and lizards evaporate into the sky.” Those are both rather haunting, strange images, and exploring them could provide you with an equally haunting, strange poem (or a funny one!)”


Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.

                        ~ Groucho Marx


What About Cats?

Funny you ask. Everyone—and I mean
cats are all darkness. Hissy,
vengeful creatures that curl up and purr
in your lap, only to sink
their fangs minutes later into
some oblivious body part. They love you
for the catnip. So go ahead, try to read
inside a cat. What you don’t see
is what gets you. The darkness
is the least of your… Ha. Told you so.

Cat is a cat is a cat is a cat
and that’s what makes the world
go slightly off-kilter.
Cats have an odd number
of lives, none to spare, unless you count
the cat o’ nine tails—a generous beast.

Cats order their own tall tales about.
Who’d blame them? Heads of state
do it. Heads of aches and parades. Heads
that give other heads nightmares.
They swish their tales back and forth,
leave them dangling. That’s how prey
falls into a coma-inducing stupor,
believing that everything will be fine.
One leap and it’s over.
Another cattail for another time, I guess.

Out of curiosity that likely won’t kill,
though it might, perhaps, maim
a metaphor, dropping it
barely breathing on your doorstep,
how many cats does it take
to finish a poem? To finish it good?

A cat may look at a flowering bush or
a road sign or a dead moth and think
poems we know nothing about.
It may scratch the surface
of words with painted claws, then lick
the ink off its paws.

That thing we whisper about cats and gods?
How some eat prose, while others
wallow in poetry, their boudoirs
littered with corpses?

Not sure why it’s even a question
that we’re obsessed with wanton
cats and their grooming habits.

I used to belong to a cat. Now
I’m homeless.

After dark, what I see
is a cat. What I smell
is a cat. What I drink…
you get my drift.

A barking dog shreds me to bits
and bits of bits, while a cat
sits on my chest,

Ask any other drunk poet.
They’ll know.
Even the fog finds me
on little cat feet.

You ask when I’m done
with this nonsense. Not until
the cats come home.

A cat yawns. On the far side of the world
a tiger roars. A tsunami strikes.
A war rips continents apart.
The far becomes the near
and how can these not be related?
We don’t know everything.

Don’t even try to explain
why a cat must enter a window,
late, long after I’ve given up hope,
why it jumps, oh so silently,
onto this page and proceeds
to knead and purr as if
it never left.

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