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‘For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.’  Christopher Smart


Unlike kind Kit Smart, incarcerated,

by his father-in-law, in bedlam –

and estranged from his children forever –

I do not have a cat. I have the neighbour’s.

I think there is only one though it dresses

in ginger, tortoiseshell, Friesian, motley,

whatever. It is ‘the Devil, who is death’

for it stalks the wren, the blackbird, the robin,

that sing and nest. Poor Christopher – busy hack,

fine poet – died a debtor, without Jeffroy,

in prison. Could he hear the red kites

long, sad whistle above the sewer

and the rats chatter? Our robins sang arias

all day. Now they have gone – for somewhere to breed

safe and sure from a cat of disguises –

leaving a clutch of sky blue eggs unhatched.





© Copyright David Selzer
3 Responses
  • John Huddart
    October 21, 2016

    I recognise my own cat in this poem. A fine portrait – I shall speak to him directly about his behaviour.

    And as for poor Mr Smart, whose madness is surely down in part to catlessness, his is the other poor innocence, robbed of life by cats of an altogether different kind.

    A fine combination of literature and the personal. Witty, insiightful and delightful.

  • Ashen Venema
    October 21, 2016

    What can we do, we look after deserted creatures. But how sad, Robin eggs deserted, and you’ll be deprived of the joy to see them hatch. My own cat was an angel. After her passing my bird families had to get wise to invading predators. Luckily, speckled, ginger and everything in between, they’re too clumsy.

  • Mary Clark
    October 28, 2016

    I too have cats and watch them with an eagle’s eye when they’re outside. One is like Ashen’s cat, not much of a hunter. But his daughter is a cat of the ruthless kind. You’ve deftly juxtaposed cats on the loose, taking lives and driving away beauty, with a cat loved by a poet – who may have heard bird song while in prison.

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