Saturday, January 31, 2009

Army Cats from The New Yorker

Army Cats


Over by the cemetery next to the CP

you could see them in wild catmint going crazy:

I watched them roll and wriggle, paw it, lick it,

chew it, leap about, pink tongues stuck out, drooling.

Cats in the tanks’ squat shadows lounging.

Or sleeping curled up under gun turrets.

Hundreds of them sniffing or licking

long hind legs stuck in the air,

great six-toed brutes fixing you with a feral,

slit-eyed stare . . . everywhere ears twitching,

twitching as the armor plate expanding

in the heat gave off piercing little pings.

Cat invasion of the mind. Cat tribes

running wild. And one big pregnant

female comes racing through weeds to pounce

between the paws of a marble dog

crouching on a grave and sharpens

her claws against his beard of moss

before she goes all silky, luxuriously

squirming right under the dog’s jaws,

and rolls over to expose her swollen belly.

Picture her with gold hoop earrings

and punked-out nose ring like the cat goddess Bast,

bronze kittens at her feet, the crowd drinking wildly,

women lifting up their skirts as she floats down

the Nile, a sistrum jangling in her paw.

Then come back out of it and sniff

her ointments, Lady of Flame, Eye of Ra.


Through the yard the tanks come gunning,

charioteers laughing, goggles smeared with dust

and sun, scattering the toms slinking

along the blast wall holding back the waves

from washing away white crosses on the graves,

the motors roaring through the afternoon

like a cat fuck yowling on and on.

The gun turrets revolving in the cats’ eyes

swivel and shine, steel treads clanking,

sending the cats flying in an exodus

through brown brittle grass, the stalks

barely rippling as they pass.


After the last car bomb killed three soldiers

the Army Web site labelled them “martyrs.”

Four civilians killed at checkpoints. Three on the airport road.

A young woman blown up by a grenade.

Facts and more facts . . . until the dead ones

climb up out of the graves, gashes on faces

or faces blown away like sandblasted stone

that in the boarded-up museums’

fractured English “leaves the onlooker

riddled and shaken, nothing but a pathetic gaping . . .”

And then I remember the ancient archers

frozen between reverence and necessity—

who stare down the enemy, barbarians,

as it’s told, who nailed sacred cats to their shields,

knowing their foes outraged in their piety

would throw down their bows and wail like kittens

by Tom Sleigh


Churlita said...

Are your cats, army cats?

Dexter said...

They were born under fire in Kalona...

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.