The King of the Cats is Dead by Peter Porter*

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The light on his thigh was like

a waterfall in Iceland, and his hair

was the tidal rip between two rocks,

his claws retracted sat in softness

deeper than the ancient moss of Blarney,

his claws extended were the coulter

of the gods and a raw March wind

was in his merely agricultural yawn.

Between his back legs was a catapult

of fecundity and he was riggish

as a red-haired man. The girls

of our nation felt him brush their legs

when they were bored with telling rosaries-

at night he clawed their brains in their

coffined beds and his walnut mind

wrinkled on their scalps. His holidays

were upside down in water and then

his face was like the sun: his smell

was in the peat smoke and even his midden

was a harmony of honey. When he stalked

his momentary mice the land shook

as though Atlantic waves were bowling

at the western walls. But his eyes

were the greatest thing about him.

They burned low and red so that drunks

saw them like two stars above a hedge,

they held the look of last eyes

in a drowning man, they were the sight

the rebel angels saw the first morning

of expulsion. And he is dead – a voice

from the centre of the earth told of his death

by treachery, that he lies in a hole

of infamy, his kidneys and his liver

torn from his body.

 

Therefore tell

the men and horses of the market-place,

the swallows laying twigs, the salmon

on the ladder that nothing is

as it has been

 

time is explored

and all is known, the portents

are of brief and brutal things, since

all must here the words of desolation

The King of the Cats is Dead

 

and it

is only Monday in the world.

 

*Published in Emergency Kit: Poems for Strange Times, Edited by Jo Shapcott and Matthew Sweeney

 

Note: WordPress does not allow you to indent lines significantly, a frustration for anyone transcribing poetry. Thus, please not that the stanza breaks are really supposed to be indents.

 

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