To hold his still-warm body in my hands
As I buried him
He was only six years old.
A black Bath neutered moggy with piercing golden eyes.
Malignancy of the bone marrow.
Something like what I have myself.
He was my little dog.
An independent cat of character.
Never happier than roaming outside.
He came and went through his catflaps as he pleased.
Didn't eat much.
Pinched his food outside.
But at night he would come
And cuddle up beside me in my chair.
When dying he picked his spot.
A corner of the living room
From where he could see all that was going on.
And he waited for death.
I loved him.
where is Khidre?
love is dead!
so am I.
dead from the neck up.
it don't pay to be old.
is there anything but love?
bread and bones.
bread and bones.
the many stars.
will I sleep forever?
and a day.
and a day.
was love real?
the only real.
who is Khidre?
Green Man of the Sufis.
slayer of the Dragon.
who is Khidre?
lover of the Unattainable.
every poet who ever lived.
dawn on the bedroom window.
who is Khidre?
sunshine and shadows.
a bottle of wine. a barrel of beer.
swimmer into depthful eyes.
who is Khidre?
an idea in the afternoon.
atheist in Love.
who is Khidre?
the nightingale and the rose.
who am I?
an old man in the evening.
who is she?
who ever loved will never die.
face of Nefertari.
queen of a dark loving demi-monde.
fox tongue chewing on serpent lip.
whistle at her bones.
cute acutest brain.
tough little hero.
the horseman trilogy?
over and done.
it's the after-time.
Fritz dead. Ferdia dead. Ludovic dead.
I need a kitten.
to outlive me.
a light in the window.
no words without love.
no poems to be seen.
the fables in the leaves.
When you came into my house
At twelve weeks old
You went straight behind the couch
And for three hours
You howled for your mother and your siblings.
Now five weeks later,
Master of the littertray,
I am indicating the catflap to you
And have unlocked your inner escape hatch.
But you are far too busy being a silly little kitten
To bother with the great outdoors,
Although you stare at it from the window.
You have fourteen ping pong balls,
Three cloth mice and a rabbit which you love.
At the moment all the ping pong balls are lost.
I will have to do a retrieval search.
With your helterskelter dribbling
You can lose a ball in sixty seconds.
You have dark grey fur,
Four white paws and a white chest.
And half your moustache is white
Quite ruining your looks.
You woke me at six this morning
Bouncing on the bed as you wanted your breakfast.
You will have a good life here.
Col in the pub told me about the scratching post.
His wife Jill had bought one for their kitten.
Six pounds ninetynine. Argos.
And all their five cats were using it.
Next day I bought one for Marty.
Three feet tall. Coiled with rope. Engineered.
He didn't want anything to do with it.
So for a week I tried to teach him
By lifting up his paws to claw it.
Then I left him alone for another week.
And after that he started using it. Kittens ain't thick.
Back arched, paws scraping,
He was doing the proper cat stuff.
And him only three months old.
But he hasn't yet learnt that his claws are sharp.
And he digs into visitors.
And his bite is sharp.
He has been brought up soft. Not scolded enough.
He will damage someone someday.
But perhaps the furniture won't be ruined.
This morning in Sainsburys, the supermarket,
I saw this black cloth mouse, Marty the Mouse,
With its red ears and large felt eyes.
I bought it for my Marty, the kitten.
It was love at first sight.
He flung it over his shoulder, chased after it,
And wouldn't let it go.
He put it in his dinnerplate when he was eating.
He looks at me now with his enormous kitten eyes
Knowing that there are wonders in this world undreamt of.
Slate-grey Marty only had Fritz's leftovers for toys before.
They had lost their scent of catmint.
Now he has his own black mouse with its long tail.
He carries it everywhere.
Kitten life is nothing but excitement.
`Pets should be supervised when playing with toys'.
Says the label.
Marty manages the inside catflap no bother.
I haven't unlocked the outside one yet.
I cleaned and polished the window so carefully
Removing Ludovic's spit.
I lifted Marty up leaning his paws against the glass
To teach him how pressure opened it.
But he wasn't interested.
Now, a week later, he has mastered the art
And goes to and fro like it's nobody's business.
This Sunday when I came back from the pub
I introduced him to the great outdoors
By leaving the outside porch door open.
For two and a half hours I watched him
But he did no more than stare at outside.
He wasn't interested in exploring.
Then this Tuesday afternoon back from the pubs
I did the same.
And this time he ventured out.
But not very far
And keeping an eye over his shoulder
For my moral support.
In a month he will be an outdoor cat.
Then he will have to be doctored.
Kittens are marvellous.
Marty sits in the darkness,
He has gone through the inner catflap
Up to the locked outer,
And there he sits and listens.
He doesn't look through the window in the door,
He just listens.
Tiny kittens have enormous ears.
Growing kittens have enormous eyes.
Marty sits and listens.
The night has many voices
Marty is always plonking his black cloth mouse
Onto his dinner plate
Whether the plate is full or empty.
I don't understand his thinking.
It is not a matter of dunking the mouse
Cos he must be trying to magic me
To feed him when the plate is licked clean.
Thankfully the mouse has not yet got mucky
It has already lost a red ear.
And every morn and night
Marty plays his little game with me.
He brings the mouse to me sitting in my chair
And for half an hour
I have to throw it away as fast as I can
So he can chase and retrieve it.
Of all his toys it is the only one he loves now.
(Except for his scratching post and ping pong balls.)
Must be a faint scent of catmint left.
But it is his very own toy.
Even at five months old Marty is still completely the kitten.
Chunky little beast.
Marty is not an outdoor cat.
He sleeps inside all day
On his cushion or in his catbasket,
Inherited from Fritz,
And in the afternoons
He does the cat's traditional thing
And heads for the back bedroom
To sleep by the pillows.
It is only when the dark comes down,
At seven o'clock these days,
That he actually goes outside.
Then for the night he is like a jack-in-the-box
Through his catflaps,
In and out,
As in his kittenish way
He explores the great surrounding world.
He must have good eyesight.
I hope he stops using his littertray soon
And becomes a proper cat.
He is only six months old.
Marty has started attacking the furniture.
My ancient three-piece-suite is suffering
From his claws.
I chase him for his life
And demonstrate his scratching post to him.
My next-door-neighbour's kitten Oliver
Was banished to her daughter's for the very same reason.
Perhaps it is good for Marty
That I live in a house that is falling to pieces.
He can do what he likes when I'm not there
And nobody will notice.
If you have a kitten live in delapidation.
I am a nasty devil,
On Tuesday I removed Marty's littertray
from the porch.
Emptied it, washed it, stored it.
He had been going out
In the dark,
Through the catflaps,
To do his business,
But now he would have to go out
In the daytime as well.
It was a culture shock for him.
At mid-day on Tuesday
He was out on the porch
With crossed legs,
He didn't know what to do.
I watched him for an hour
Then had to leave to see friends.
I returned at six o'clock
To find a happy kitten.
He had resolved his problem.
He had gone outside.
Nature will out.
Now, at six months old,
He is a teenager
Wandering in and out of his catflaps
All times of the day.
He has changed his habits,
Not eating till the evening.
He is a clever cat.
I will give him his flea collar next.
Marty is now a grown-up cat.
He is all of six months old
And has his new cat collar
To keep the fleas away.
He still lies on my chest and licks my face.
In the morning I give him
Biscuits and water. No milk.
He gets his catfood in the evening
Before he goes out the catflaps exploring.
He sleeps all day
Somewhere in the dishevelled house,
Although he attacks his scratching post
When I come downstairs in the morning.
He is the best of cats.
With his grey coat and white paws,
white chest and half a white moustache.
He still likes to play with his black mouse.
Dunking it in his food
And bringing it to me to throw for him to retrieve.
And he scratches the furniture. Naughty boy.
He is a proper grown-up cat.
Marty went to Honeysuckle Farm
For Christmas and New Year
Cos I couldnt take him North with me.
It is a most luxurious cat place.
He had his own catflap out into his run.
He was given fresh tuna on Christmas Day.
And he was presented with a little cloth mouse
To keep him company.
Looked after night and day by the kennel girls
He lived the Life of Riley for a fortnight.
But he was pleased to see me
When I returned to collect him.
He chattered all the way home in the car.
He purred when he was back in the house.
Mavis has bought Marty a mouse
From the new Cat Shop in Northumberland Place.
It is a tiny little grey mouse, chocolate grey,
Stinking of catnip,
A quarter the size of his black familiar.
He loves it,
Tossing it over his shoulder,
Dropping it on his biscuit dish,
The old black faithful
Don't get a look-in.
Marty is easily seduced by novelty.
I am jealous of Mavis's triumph
And go to the Cat Shop.
I buy Marty a similar white mouse,
But he don't love it,
Even though it has the same cute smell.
The chocolate grey mouse is top of the walk.
Marty has lost his grey mouse!
I look everywhere.
Then four hours later I find it.
Where he has thrown it
Down the side of his carrying basket.
Marty has been up to Hi-Do
And I have searched the house
From top to bottom.
Then I find it.
But a week later
The grey mouse is gone forever.
Heaven knows where it went.
I suspect the cleaning women
Put it in the rubbish sack
Because it had split
And the insides were falling out
All over the floor.
The grey mouse was gone.
But Mavis to the rescue!
She buys a replacement mouse
From the Cat Shop.
And Marty doesn't know the difference.
But nowadays the grey mouse is getting old,
And its insides are falling out.
I hope the cleaning women don't spot that
And put it in the rubbish sack.
How Marty would miss it.
And would the Shop have any left.
In the early morning if he has no food left
It is always the first mouse
He brings to my bed.
Even before his big black mouse
He has had since he was a kitten.
Seventy-year-old Mavis is the godmother of cats.
Marty found a bird's nest.
He killed two of the youngsters
Bringing them as presents to me,
One brought beside my bed as I slept.
I went to the Pet Shop in Moorland Road
And bought him a bell,
A turquoise bell with a pretty jingle,
But I didn't have the heart to put it on him.
Then last Thursday night at two in the morning
There was great excitement in the house.
A whooping and hollering cat,
In from the catflaps,
Came dashing up the stairs
As I lay awake in bed.
Marty was squeaking all over the place.
I didn't move
Then he was up on the bed
And realised that he had dumped a dead bird on me.
A fully grown thrush,
Not a baby.
No wonder he was so pleased with himself.
And Marty only twelve months old.
I had to get up and put the bird in a plastic bag
And into the rubbish bin.
Fortunately it hadn't bled.
Next morning at eight o'clock
I put the turqoise bell on Marty.
He went hysterical.
Dashing around everywhere
With the Devil behind him.
Eventually he vanished outside
Through his catflaps,
A pretty jingling noise.
I had to go to my voluntary jobs
And it wasn't till four in the afternoon
That I returned to search for Marty.
I found him hiding upstairs on the spare bed.
A most unhappy cat.
He stayed there till well after dark
When he made a dash out through his catflaps
Jingling all the way.
He wasn't around next morning.
I went to two lunchtime folk concerts
At the Bath Festival
Then came home to find the score.
I had decided that if Marty
Was still in a dreadful state
I would remove the bell.
I found him in the Book Room
Buried in a pile of plastic bags.
One of his hideyholes.
I removed the bell,
And he was the happiest cat in the world,
Licking my face, purring uncontrollably.
Now he is back to himself again.
But I dread him killing another bird.
I was sitting at my computer at midnight
When Marty came through the catflap behind me
And I heard a great commotion.
He was tossing a dead mouse in the air.
His very first mouse.
Oh what a clever cat.
I thought Fritz had cleared out all the fieldmice
From back of my house
Fifteen years ago.
They must be back.
This one had been a healthy young beast.
I am much happier for Marty to catch mice
Rather than birds
Or the enormous wriggling worms he likes to play with.
What a clever little cat.
I came back from Frenchay Hospital
With my plastic nose,
Having been away for a week,
And sat in my armchair in the evening
Waiting for Marty to come home to taste his food
(My neighbour Errol had been feeding him).
He returned at tenfifteen and got the shock of his life
When coming through the catflap he saw me.
He purred for an hour and a half non-stop
And was all over me, so pleased.
At two in the morning he came up
And lay on my bed
Purring till I got up the next morning.
The next night at midnight
There was this tremendous squeaking on the stairs.
Marty had caught me a blackbird as a present
And brought it to my bed.
I had to get up to put it in a plastic bag
And dump it in the bin.
I think Marty is pleased that I am home
Even though I now have a plastic nose.
I have a rebellion on my hands.
Marty wont eat his Whiskas.
During the night he sucked up the jelly
But he refuses to eat the meat.
This is proper cat thinking.
He suspects me of trying to poison him.
Kittens gobble up the lot.
They dont complain.
Marty eats his food during the night
And if his plate is empty in the morning
I often give him a tiny tin of tuna
As a bonus.
But not today.
He wants me to throw away his uneaten Whiskas
And there is still a half-tin to come in the cupboard.
I will try and starve him out.
But cats always win at these games.
Marty is grownup and it is rebellion.
It absolutely stinks
That the money I had intended getting
Drunk on tonight
Should be taken away from me
By Sue, the landlady,
Shortchanging me in the pub this afternoon.
I was so looking forward to getting out of my mind
Because the house is falling to pieces
And the garden is a disgrace
And my kitten Marty
Is forever leaping on me
Demanding more food.
I nearly managed two hours
At my voluntary job this afternoon
Scanning the Institute museum for the Web
Cos they didnt need me
At the Citizens Advice Bureau this morning
Doing my admin work and I was fresh.
But I was so tired coming home
On the bus
To read the new Michael Donaghy
Then I got shortchanged in the pub
Now I have read the book
And I am very unhappy.
I could have been drunk all weekend
On the money I have wasted today
And my life is falling to bits,
House, garden, car,
All I can say is
Thank God you only live once.
at nine the knife tonsilectomy vanilla ice cream turns red with blood at
twelve the knife appendictomy hernia and first part undescended testicle
three weeks of agony with bent knees in a nursing home bed at twelve
haemorrage all night tin bowl of blood spare tooth taken out later braces
on teeth at fifteen the knife second part operation in hospital and the
itching in the groin can stop at twentyone love penelope at twentytwo
love fiona at twentytwo the drugs librium nervous breakdown finals at
twentytwo the knife in an italian hospital car crash sew up skull at
twentyfour the drugs largactil valium eleven weeks in the edinburgh
professorial mental unit at twentynine the drugs durham hospital breakdowns
at thirtytwo love susan at thirtyseven fritz the kitten at thirtyseven
the drugs haloperidol procyclidine schizophrenia in greece paranoid
greek hospital darlington hospital at forty the drugs the knife depixol
schizophrenia paranoid knife to my genitals polycythaemia thick blood
venosections at fortythree ferdia kittencat at fortysix bloodclots in
the head double vision venosection high blood pressure from thick blood
atenolol at fortyeight the drugs hydroxyurea bloodclots in the spleen
agony at fortynine ludovic the cat at fiftytwo the drugs hiatus hernia
diagnosed omeprazole no more coughing up guts at fiftythree love dies
taking poetry with it at fiftyfour bloodclots in the intestine the knife
mrsa seven weeks in bath hospital three weeks in intensive care warfarin at
fiftyseven marty the kitten
Now madness has gone
Poetry's left me.
It's only when I'm in love
That I can write.
And now all I have is a chunky kitten
Who squabbles over food
And plays games with his chocolate-grey mouse.
I can write about him.
That throbs the words through the brain,
The girl with her head held high,
That is gone forever.
We'll be no more mad
And drunk on love,
Old age is very boring.
Even alcohol can't cure it,
A time for tea, and sympathy
Between the lines.
Every day I drink myself
A little closer to death,
When I will sleep
Forever and dream of love.
Every night I lie down awake
Silent in my bed,
And my furry cat Marty
Dosses down at my feet.
At six in the morning
Lovely Marty departs,
And I have to force myself
To face another dawn.
Take it day by day,
My blood disease froths;
When my bone marrow burns out
I will say goodbye.
I have lived past the century
Into a new millennium,
But I carry too many wounds
To start afresh.
It is the end of an era
And I am an anachronism,
Thank God for a lively young cat
Who loves to play games.
Douglas Clark /Kitten Poems/
Benjamin Press, 69 Hillcrest Drive, Bath BA2 1HD, UK/