He was urged to prepare for success: "You never can tell, he was told over and over; "others have made it; one dare not presume to predict. You never can tell. Who’s Who in America lists the order of cats in hunting, fishing, bird-watching, farming, domestic service--the dictionary order of cats who have made it. Those not in the book are beyond the pale. Not to succeed in you chosen profession is unthinkable. Either you make it or--you’re beyond the pale. Do you understand?" "No," he shakes his head. "Are you ready to forage for freedom?" "No," he adds, "I mean, why is a cat always shaking his head? Because he’s thinking: who am I? I am not only one-ninth of myself. I always am all of the selves I have been and will be but am not." "The normal cat," I tell him, "soon adjusts to others and to changing circumstances; he makes his way the way he soon adjusts." "I can’t," he says, "perhaps because I’m blue, big-footed, lop-eared, socially awkward, impotent, and I drink too much, whether because I’m blue or because I like it, who knows. I want to escape at five o’clock into an untouchable world where the top is the bottom and everyone wants to escape from the middle, everyone, every day. I mean, I have visions of two green eyes rising out of the ocean, blinking, knowing what I mean." "Never mind the picture, repeat after me the self’s creed. What he tells you you tells me and I repeats. Now, after me: I love myself, I wish I would live well. Your gift of love breaks through my self-defeat. All prizes are blue. No cat admits defeat. The next time that he lives he will live well."
Permission from Other Press to reprint "Identiy Crisis" from The Return of the Blue Cat Copyright © 2005 F. D. Reeve is gratefully acknowledged.
Stupefy my heart to every day's monotony, Seal up my eyes, I would not look so far, Chasten my steps to peaceful regularity, Bow down my head lest I behold a star. Fill my days with work, a thousand calm necessities Leaving no moment to consecrate to hope, Girdle my thoughts within the dull circumferences Of facts which form the actual in one short hour's scope. Give me dreamless sleep, and loose night's power over me, Shut my ears to sounds only tumultuous then, Bid Fancy slumber, and steal away its potency, Or Nature wakes and strives to live again. Let each day pass, well ordered in its usefulness, Unlit by sunshine, unscarred by storm; Dower me with strength and curb all foolish eagerness — The law exacts obedience. Instruct, I will conform.
This poem is in the public domain.
Once I freed myself of my duties to tasks and people and went down to the cleansing sea...
The air was like wine to my spirit,
The sky bathed my eyes with infinity,
The sun followed me, casting golden snares on the tide,
And the ocean—masses of molten surfaces, faintly gray-blue—sang to my heart...
Then I found myself, all here in the body and brain, and all there on the shore:
Content to be myself: free, and strong, and enlarged:
Then I knew the depths of myself were the depths of space.
And all living beings were of those depths (my brothers and sisters)
And that by going inward and away from duties, cities, street-cars and greetings,
I was dipping behind all surfaces, piercing cities and people,
And entering in and possessing them, more than a brother,
The surge of all life in them and in me...
So I swore I would be myself (there by the ocean)
And I swore I would cease to neglect myself, but would take myself as my mate,
Solemn marriage and deep: midnights of thought to be:
Long mornings of sacred communion, and twilights of talk,
Myself and I, long parted, clasping and married till death.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 24, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.
them loose, who diffuses
broken, shining bits, the farflung force
washed to foam on a rockface, succulents
and whelks alive inside
its razing spray? Who slings
the broth aslide in cups of ocean swell? Whose bolt
of lace, a great spill of it blowing
in the window with her pins, patterns the firmament, patterns
the phosphorescent body of an Eel making slip-knots
in the dark sea, patterns fireflies sailing
through grass at the edge
of a wood, lit—and unlit—at twilight, giving
body to the air,
or to some, brimming, being
From How the Universe is Made. Copyright © 2019 by Stephanie Strickland. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Ahsahta Press.