BY JAN HAAG
THE OPINIONATED CAT
(In chronological order)
Over the years I have written many a cat poem, but here is a special
Shiva (the God) - purna (full of) poems.
Collected and posted
July 19, 2004, August 10, 2004
#73 Death of the Mind is Birth of Wisdom
Siva-purna came to live with
me yesterday. Auspiciousness complete!
of food, "food + full":
the white cat and
the image and the real
kitten dwell in the eyrie
now. Nisargadatta speaks of silence.
Silence cannot be heard
sound, but when the words
have been spoken, the silence
before and the silence after
are not different. Annapurna. Shiva-purna.
#74 Truth is Here and Now
"To be, you must be
nobody. To think yourself to be something,
somebody is death and
hell." "...mind has its limits;
to go beyond,
consent to silence." The morning
of sunshine and the
kitten Siva pass in laughter
and silence. Siva plays with
his shadow which runs ahead
of his bounding, pouncing chase
-- a shadow of Shiva's shadow.
My kitten sits in the sink, or,
if I can persuade him,
His sweet, white-masked,
Siamese face gazes up at me
kiss his pink nose.
Modestly, he bows his head.
has it occurred to me --
though I have had no
of training him to kiss me in return --
trying to train me
to better manners,
to -- in the way
with his two-inch, pink tongue -- unfurl my
broad human tongue,
lick his face, show
I wonder on what spring-roller-system
he curls his
disproportionately long tongue
back into his white-booted, silk-soft
Is there a little round case from which
it stretches out
like a tape-measure
and snaps back on command?
On the other hand,
no doubt he wonders where
I keep the rest of my
and why? For, as far as he can tell, I suppose,
is disproportionately short
for my massive height, broad bulk,
fur-less face, naked paws,
The greatest joy beneath the sky
is watching Shiva-purna,
flat as a squashed frog,
his head stuck through
-- dragging the rattling bag --
the vitamin bottle's white plastic ring,
beneath the clipped
twigs of the black bamboo,
strewn on the floor,
overturned the juice-bottle-vase
set there to tempt him,
while I, warm,
-- maybe even too warm --
comfortable, lie on
cocooned in my comforter,
on a snowy morning
reading Ved Mehta's
1963, tempest in a teapot:
or not proving, as the case may be,
some minor theological point
as to whether or not
God does or
does not exist.
is the same year
that, in San
Francisco, it came to be believed
that Plate Tectonic Theory
of the earth,
powered by internal combustion,
had, did and would continue to
move about, re-
the earth daily --
THE FISHES ARE REFRESHING*
Fishes, fishes, O fishes of the sea,
26,000 kinds of fishes
fattened on red, yellow and green scree…
The cat, brown, white and black,
lies on the floor
like a squashed frog.
How many are there now? 6, 7,
8 billion of us? and you're trying to
that a handful** of stout, sinecured German,
Swiss, English, American theologians -- trying to figure out
if they are Christians (the deadliest of all faiths)
if so, with or without God, with or without religion:
idiot savants arguing about
scheme of the Emperor's new clothes as they
rearranged the chairs on the decks of the Titanic --
should mean even zit to me, us, anyone -- then or now?
intellectual isolation, as Ved Mehta (one of the
of 20th/21st century writers) does on page 138 of his "New
(1965), regarding Dietrich Bonhoeffer's time in prison, 1943-45,
Bonhoeffer died in Flossenburg. The squashed frog
has arisen and
bats my fingers on the keyboard.
He has as many opinions as a theologian,
meows about the fog moving
in from the distant
hills of Bellevue where, earlier in the morning,
it covered all but the tips of the trees,
converting the landscape
into an ancient Chinese
painting of spiritual
Some of the fishes -- however many are left -- will find
from Lake Washington, through the cut,
through the locks, through
the Sound to the sea.
*Their study -- with Professor Pietsch in Biology of Fishes, 311,
**Karl Barth, Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Emil Brunner,
Rudolf Bultmann, David Edwards, William Hamilton, Eric James, D.M.
MacKinnon, Reinhold Niebhur, Arthur Michael and Ian Ramsey, John
Robinson, Nicholas Stacey, Paul Tillich, Paul van Buren, A.R. Vidler
from having adventures!
immediately notify Jan the
Jailer. To prevent HIM getting used
in the Chapel and becoming an intolerable SHIVA-PURNA
wag -- with that insouciant tail.
P.S. HE spent the night of
02-04-04 in the Chapel -- cavorting, I presume --
and came home with
dirty paws, dirty belly,
to say nothing about a
heart-rending wistfulness to
can make up
for everything by being
affectionate, coy, but I assured HIM that is
unbecoming in a cat of HIS exalted name. Nor is it my intention
to watch HIM spend the whole next day licking the dust out of
HIS fur coat, pretending HE missed us enormously
penance by sitting
at the tightly
Posted on the Attic Artists of the Nunnery's hallway door into the
in the nunnery,
velvet paws and iron claws
blue-eyed puma, wild animal, the nuns are gone,
black bamboo was brought for you, blood on the floor, purr pussy
toward me, my
cougar stalks in
stiff-legged. Nose to nose, he stops, drops
little, purple, grape-bubble-gum box, fetched, I guess, from the trash
of the neighbor-up-the-hall -- one more gift in a growing catalog of
Shiva-purna has brought home to me:
feathers from another neighbor's duster, two pieces
of ruby glass
from a delicate wine goblet he reduced to fragments
it, a golden bracelet, lying
(twice) in the middle of
blood from his
bites and scratches, can I
doubt his love,
his wit? Adapting to
the urban jungle, he does his best. Would I
of mice or that, trying flying, he caught crow on the nunnery's
upon himself as
an alarm clock, not only
an alarm clock, but a righteous, sentient,
clock, striking at meal times (wake-up-get-up-you-lazy-bones)
morning times and just-one-more-hour times. He takes it out on Quan
Yin, my little,
who sits with a crystal
guarding my life and my thought,
my mother's ashes, incense ashes, skillfully draped in
golden chains. His
white paws dig into the corner where I have
shoved her white, serving-as-a-shrine
his paw between
the statue and the wall
and gives Quan
Yin -- glancing at me --
a little shove. I sit up from my floor-bed
him a withering stare and a glare. He taps her again. The
Compassion moves half
an inch. I clap, sharp
and loud. Shiva-purna, the cat, lifts his
blue-eyed head and gives me a quizzical stare. Another white-pawed
tap. Another explosive clap clap. Another who-me? stare. Tap tap
tap. Clap clap
you! Black tail gyrating,
curving to a crook against
tap tap tap, CLAP CLAP CLAP! Barely a glance -- tap
Yes, you! You wicked wicked wicked cat! Interestingly enough, he
never attacks Quan
from home. Tap
tap, CLAP! Now I'm on
my feet. Ah, that's all I ever
he smiles his one-sided smile and, tail like
a velvet hook,
hops down and strolls across the studio. I clap again. He
his back at me, laughs
with me -- my righteous, opinionated,
perceptive cat! I wonder,
at times, if he is going to spend all nine
me? -- tap tapping Quan Yin and, bat-like, ringing
My cat likes
be petted early (5:00
morning. By 7:00
his claws are out. However, at 2:00 a.m. he
has already attempted
persuaded me to chase
up the hall. When he
runs, rump to paws, down the well lit,
golden hall, my
the "thundering hoof beats
of the great horse
Silver." I dare not follow --
at 2:00 a.m..
along about 9:00, he's
for another romp or two:
me thundering, clapping, cat-talking behind, 'til he skids into
the laundry-room --
eyes flashing behind the
and open door, scimitar claws
out -- no more petting
his seductive fur 'til tomorrow.
For the rest
day it is
and Fight -- proving, his leopard
and yeti heritage against my frail furless female flesh.
PI - VII
Aside from which,
has a lopsided grin --
used -- only seen at
particular times in a particular light.
Clownish, puckish, I
light brown dash on
lower right jaw. A
Siamese with irregular marks, his face is black with
and muzzle. His
and different --
more Siamese than the other.
brown belly is white-lightening-streaked through his soft-as-ozone fur.
paws, big as
each tabled-thing to the floor.
Fanged, cobra-quick, his claws flash forth for blood.
is also addicted
A snorting brown-black
pawing pawing frosty ground,
paws my papers, rattle rustle rattle rustle rustle
I bought him
upholstered mushroom when he
young, a low, bar-stoolish
of thing. Sleeping there, Sphinx-like, paws out-thrust, he
Every once in
I hear a cry
the walls, an odd
from the floor, a meow from the roof,
no roof, no other cat -- Shiva-purna well
accounted for, sniffing
I live high
an attic, but above
eyrie-attic is dark-attic, inhabited, possibly,
ghosts of cats past. Did the nuns
At night I hear
shades leaping the beams, the studs,
hear these mirages of sound --
along with tingling hopes of
eerie adventures. Shiva-purna looks
ceiling, I look to
cichlids there? Mouth-brooding,
mother-watchful, multi-breeding cichlids?
nor anywhere near the ocean
or Africa or
the sea of my brain filled
with weed and the startled awareness of
Shiva-purna watches the walls, I
along the cold gold floor.
trees. My cat
sleeps with me by
day. At night he wanders, pussy footing, with the moon.
long, wind-blown grass,
king of beasts.
My cat walks on water, sits in the sink, yodels.
changing their shapes.
changing patterns where I'm permitted to roam
in his house.
faster than an SUV,
lithe and limber, my cat runs the
halls like thunder.
Mountains. My bewitching cat
lounges in his high,
round window slowly melting Mount Rainier.
long tails wander
Himalayas licking their
spots. My cat, with thicker tail, grooms
his white boots.
remote, dangerous, never seen.
Shiva-purna lies on the sill and in my heart.
fanged Puma, nor
the kitten purring in
pocket dreaming of fresh flesh, heart, liver, kidneys, blood.
felicity lies across
suited up in fur, leg-stroking, wet-nosed,
blue-eyed, giving pink-tongued felicitations.
1 2 3 4 10, idam ch'dam cha,
THE OPINIONATED CAT
for more fat
in formulated kitten food,
but my opinionated kitten, not quite two, now that he --
a cat, won't
eat fat --
or chicken, just a little fish, thank you very much; small
liver and kidney;
much flesh --
please. He likes nettles, nutritional yeast, seaweed,
water, an occasional
butter, but likes sambhar,
or highly spiced
Indian vegetables, or Mexican or Thai. Anything
is worth sniffing,
if not for eating,
with a delicate white paw, hooking by claw
or the floor.
He bears the name
of the great Indian God:
Shiva. With his Ardhanarisvara-like**
when he can,
of my giddy
in his kittenhood that persuaded me to name him Shiva-purna.
is and destroys
all that will be. I should have known better.
to turn out
expect, at any moment, to see Ganga*** drop into my
up tears and wild
rain on her flow beyond the
Sound toward the sea.
1 2 3 4 10
*"A plant (Asparagus officinalis, N.O. Liliaceae)
cultivated for the sake of its vernal shoots, which form a well-known
delicacy of the table." OED, p. 492
[r] and half-female [l] form of Siva. It symbolizes...the transcending of
all opposites." A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy, John Grimes,
***The Ganges river
Tetraktys: "A set of four;
the number four; esp. the Pythagorean name for the sum of the first four
numbers (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10) regarded as the source of all things." OED,
idam ch'dam cha,
I use a
lot of dishes. He
meaty bites multiple times throughout his day
Sleeping, walking, slicing
liver to feast my
cat, I stumble forth from my warm cocoon, a suicidal
exposed, toes for
nibbling at, the leaping
stalking, tail-arched, 20 lbs cat shadows
my half-awake half-life.
paw, scratch scratch scratch,
like a officious
tax-collector come to haunt my wakeful nights.
personality. Better, I
like to think (I
choice), than a purring, curling, soft-pawed, affectionate puss.
on my toes,
my computer, criticizes my
poetry, keeps my world in
perspective, my words as words.
he has, he
returns every time I
cry out for his
company, thinking he is gone. Bounding
back from the
laundry, stairwell or hall,
willingly fighting each red-and-speckle-feathered demon I manage to
a string. Dishes
up, cat fur
clouds the corners, Shiva-purna, on his back, boots
aloft -- sleeps.
and days and
days reading "Old Fourlegs"
the book about finding a living Coelacanth
-- old "hollow spine."*
us -- or we with
him. He got here first -- a first
of the first.
still is, as
I read --
toward me, lion-leopard cat,
native to the wild, clawed for survival.
in the night
feeling like the yoke
of an egg, trying to
comprehend my driving hunger for
the big, old,
armored fish's clever, concealed
swim for three-hundred-million years survival, a shadow among the rocks.
1 2 3 4 10
The Story of the Coelacanth" by J.L.B.
Smith, p. 231, Longmans, Green and
"A set of four; the number four; esp. the Pythagorean name
for the sum of the first four numbers (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 10) regarded as the
source of all things." OED, p. 230
idam ch'dam cha,
from each small
drawer as rain drops
splash on the window, quite willingly anoint the black crow
for. Shiva-purna's a
cat domesticated into
a rather intellectual view of life, his jungle
of The Good
six artists, ghosts
of nuns and wayward girls, high ceilings, golden
is too big
can be knocked
to the floor. He's an attack cat, a civil guard.
at your peril.
He loves only
a high, black, silken dog, next door, and Uncle Roger
thousand possessions plus
a TV, and
small red cat I just made for him of clay.
small windows on
the world along with
giant animated pictures that attend his sits on the sills.
a lot of
time making himself ubiquitous.
Again and again he tries to tip over the big
but the jar
is too heavy for
spill-tactics to succeed, so Shiva-purna, with his white paws,
room shoving the
daffodils and secretly
the falling daphne blooms trying to convince himself, or me,
being a nettle-eater,
he is a
a dancing flora-tarian, who extends his pristine paws
rug and buries
his face between them,
to study the design, conning intricate
possibilities of teasing me.
filling the universe, taps
my leg with his soft paw as I walk by.
she done? Hung an
umbrella on the wooden
screen to tempt me.
I easily reach
moves it further away, sets a plant
base. When she uses
that umbrella, I notice, she makes double sure
not about to
bound. Before opening the window,
I'm not supposed to
she thrusts its
handle against the lowered upper window -- which I
in any case -- and
pushes like hell to close it,
black umbrellas on
the white screen
again. O glorious just-out-of-reach temptation -- maybe…
she's asleep. That slick-stiff
is perfect for honing my claws.
Later on in life, having broken the umbrella's crooked handle, he
inherited the black silk for a cave.
IT UPSETS MY CAT
"Is it better to be caged and freed, than never to have been caged at
know my cat
well enough to know
that he is as
a cheetah, a snow leopard, a yeti,
whose white paws tap at the
objects of perception.
It upsets Shiva-purna
to see those
(hanging in our Great Hall the "living room,"
Closet, if you will, in this 100 year old nunnery
that supports Shiva-purna's perch and my eyrie)
felted, bright wool, layer upon layer of reds,
yellows, and a shade
as dark as a Siamese cat's ears;
made of clear plastic and dog-hair,
ballooning like Marie
Antoinette's ball gown; made of a slim column
of silver mist,
dissolved by sunlight, buttoned with black pearls;
made of dark,
scented, diamond cuts of ecologically-to-be-treasured
constructed of stained-glass-mullioned-window trim
beneath a dimpled
scarlet silk; made of a torso-ed chandelier,
made of tightly
stories -- a kimono, thirty feet long, its
train splaying out across the ancient, saged boards;
slim rusted-wire, a mannequin-ghost, its drooping,
around the polished floor;
made of saris and ties, a
peacock-tailed-phoenix; made of
ceramic, a white-bodiced,
hearted-paean; made of white-polypropylene crochet
blue-belting-straps feathered to enclose the blouse; made of pale
and white, a medieval nuns gown with pomegranate
atop the balcony wall, gazes and
as if he expected the out-sized birds to move about.
stunned by their immobility and silence.
He hops down, hunkers in the
well at the top of the stairs,
meows to go home.
intense is his desire to return
to his furred, brown velvet
that he learns to paw open the dead weight
of the fire
Tomorrow, he crouches again in the hall,
the door to the "Closet"
begging to be let in to face his terror.
a bird perched on the west shoulder of the
Shiva-purna strained forward.
Before he can
I open the door, toss him
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INDEX OF THE OPINIONATED CAT POEMS
BY JAN HAAG