Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


For Katy

When Milo was a kitten 
and spent the night
with us in the big bed,
curled like a brown sock
at our feet, he would
wake before daybreak,
squeak plaintively 
in his best Burmese,
cat-castrato soprano,
and make bread on our stomachs
until if one of us did not rise,
sleep-walk to the kitchen
and open his can of food,
he would steal under the covers,
crouch, run hard at us,
jam his head
in our armpits,
and burrow fiercely.

Probably he meant nothing by that.
Or he meant it in cat-contrary,
just as he did not intend
drawing blood the day
he bolted out the door
and was wild again
for nearly three hours.
I could not catch him
until I knelt, wormed
into the crawl-space
under a neighbor house
and lured him home
with bits of dried fish.

Or he meant exactly what he smelled,
and smelled the future
as it transmogrified out of the past,
for he is, if not an olfactory
clairvoyant,
a highly nuanced cat—
an undoer of complicated knots,
who tricks cabinets,
who lives to upend tall
glasses of Merlot.
With his whole body,
he has censored the finest passages of Moby-Dick.
He has silenced Beethoven with one paw.
He has leapt three and a half feet
from the table by the wall
and pulled down
your favorite print by Miró.
He does not know the word no.

When you asked the vet what 
kind of cat it was, she went
into the next room
came back and said,
“Havana Brown.”

The yellow eyes, the voice,
the live spirit that plays into dead seriousness
and will not be punished into goodness,
but no—

an ancient, nameless breed—

mink he says and I answer in cat.
Even if I was not
born in a dumpster 
between a moldy cabbage
and an expired loaf of bread,
I too was rescued by an extravagant woman.

Credit


Copyright © 2019 by Rodney Jones. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 3, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem


“‘For Katy’ began with a journal note about our new kitten’s habit of waking us by charging into our armpits and burrowing. A year later, after Mary Oliver died, I was reading her animal poems and the image came to me again. I stopped and wrote ‘For Katy,’ nearly as it is, in one setting. It is partly a love poem, partly an homage to Mary Oliver, and partly a brag on one cat, Milo Delassize, who entertains us and teaches us tolerance. Once I wanted to write animal poems that proved the bite in naturalism. At this historical juncture, I think more of tenderness. Thus, this play with claws retracted.”
—Rodney Jones

Author


Rodney Jones


Rodney Jones was born on February 11, 1950, in Hartselle, Alabama. His books of poetry include Village Prodigies (Mariner Books, 2017); Salvation Blues: One Hundred Poems, 1985–2005 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and a finalist for the Griffin International Poetry Prize; and Elegy for the Southern Drawl (Houghton Mifflin, 1999), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Date Published: 2019-07-03

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/katy