by Gary Short

From behind the screen door I watch the cat
in the bunchgrass stalking at dusk.
With the pure attention of religion,
he waits for the skitter of a field mouse,
a shiver in an owl's dream.

The cat delivers his limp prey
to the chipped gray paint of the porch.
I step outside, not knowing
if I will punish the cat
or accept the mouse.

At the edge of the porch I kneel and see
the map of red capillaries
in the delicate mouse ear.

I lift it by the tail to toss,
but in the blink of a smug cat's eye
I feel a tug—an escape
back into life.

In the African journals, Livingston tells
of the charging lion that knocked him down.
When he was held in the lion's mouth,
the human body's trance-like response
was to go limp in an ecstatic giving up
that saved. To assume death

to stay alive.

A Confederate soldier at Antietam
played dead when his battalion was overrun.
for a moment he thought he was safe,
but to make sure, the Union infantryman
drove a bayonet into each body on the ground.

When I pick up the mouse
and it jerks from terror-induced sleep,
I feel all that fear
in a small heartbeat.

My panicked fingers let go
and the mouse slips into the brush where it may be
safe for awhile. Though the cat
is all tension now and ready
to pounce again. I shut him in the house,
stand on the porch and watch the first stars
burn holes in the sky.
Dark enlarging around me,
the pupil in a cat's eye.

please note: photo by captpiper


  1. Today I will be first because it is 6:22am, or is it 5:22am in Cin Sity, 3:22 on the Left Coast, and lunch time in my body now that I am back from la belle France. Everything is perfect in the house. Now I just have to go have a great summer in the great outdoors of the USA, send the last of the stuff, and the move is complete. Thank you for your comment and know that I thought of you frequently, my Distracted friend, during my weeks abroad.


  2. Cats so like to bring you their catch as a tribute! Great poem.

  3. I found this poem very intense and dark. Having animals, there comes a time when you have to be able to put them to rest, to make the decision to end their suffering (luckier than humans that way). When you feel another creature's life force slip away, or as here, return, you feel like the whole universe has shrunken and is contained at your finger tips....

  4. Seriously cool poem. Sigh, yesterday my quick cat got TWO birds. (he's a house cat who gets out for about five minutes each morning before breakfast.) I didn't have the opportunity to show mercy.

  5. Incredibly good poem... I have to admit, I've been a lurker here in your pages for quite some time now (a little shy sometimes), and have oft wondered where you dig up the beautiful poetry you present. I suppose there must be a multitude of sources possible, on line or off; as much as I love poetry, I just haven't gotten out as much as I'd like to really start digging into what's out there, and hate to think what I'm missing, especially when pieces like this one, and others you have been publishing in "Tidings", surface. I barely have time to read and re-read what I have in plenty of books around the house, as well as meaning to write some from time to time as well... need more hours in the standard day !

    Any cat owner who lets them roam outside can certainly relate to this poem, I know our two cats sometimes leave us gifts on the doorstep, rarely still alive though, usually fairly well mangled.

    And am so glad to see "la Fram" is back on-line with the above comment today ! (so I can stop "whining" at English Rider for news ! :-D )

    PS Many thanks for your visit today, a pleasure to have you anytime ! the coffee's always on !

  6. Thanks for all the comments. Appreciate your time very much.
    As for where I find the poems--they're mostly on websites. I save the ones I like, and I read a lot of different things--writers seem to like a bit of poetry around and then I follow up if I like it.
    Lurkers are always welcome. I can't always process immediately and write something coherant; I imagine others feel the same at times. I wish I had more time to lurk and visit, and the time feels shorter now that the weather is nice and I'm outside more. The miserable rivertown heat and humidity will come soon enough, though...

  7. Uh, we are all lurking in the dark, jumping on prey, glad for that feeling of masterfulness.

    Our deepest fear is to be the prey.

  8. Makes me shiver! I wonder - am I the cat, the mouse, or the witnessing mind?

  9. Our cats are forever playing predator, so sad for their prey. The cats however, are so proud. They are always careful to display their catch on the step at the back door. This poem catches the drama of the moment perfectly. :)


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