Tag Archives: cat poem

“Look, you have milk”

Whoops! So there went June I guess.

But now back to it — here’s this month’s Animal poem, “Sister Cat” by Frances Mayes (on that Poetry 180 project site Billy Collins did during his Poet Laureate tenure — I recommend exploring, lots of good poems there).

This is one of those enclosed poems, a type of poem that I frequently resist — I tend to like it less when a metaphor’s expansion is too fully explained. But I like it here, I think because such a cat’s cries are both familiar enough to me and strange enough in themselves to carry the burden of such explanations/abstractions.

The human’s firm reaction to the finicky cat, “Look, you have milk. / I clink my fingernail / Against the rim. Milk.” is spot-on, and I like the progression of analogous movements, “the light on / when it is on,” the other Frances, then back to the cat with those lovely short sentences so evocative of a cat’s movement, “She stalks / The room. She wants.” And the ending, back to the cat’s, and therefore ours too, otherworldly and impossible desires, “Milk / Beyond milk. World beyond / This one, she cries.”

That ending, by the way, is a good example of the power of word order. Switched around, “She cries / World beyond this one” just has nothing going for it. The tension of the line break “World beyond / This one” brings the emphasis to both “beyond” and “this one,” and it works so much better to end with the focus back on the physical cat rather than the abstract idea.

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