Featured Poem II • February 2014
If you speak I will not answer, if you call I will not come, if you throw things at my shadow I will nail them to your thumb. You can call me by a name that you are quite convinced is mine, but the name by which you call me I left out for you to find; the name that guides my hand I carry locked inside a box, in an egg, inside a sparrow, in the belly of a fox. If you speak I will not answer, if you call I will not come, if you throw things at my shadow I will nail them to your thumb, but when you call the name that I have crafted out of clay, I’ll catch your breath inside a bottle, sealed with wax to make it stay.
David Sklar grew up in Michigan, where the Michipeshu nibbled his toes on the days when the lake was feeling frisky. His work has appeared in such places as Strange Horizions, Paterson Literary Review, and Bull Spec. David lives in New Jersey with his wife, their two barbarians, and a secondhand familiar, all of whom he almost manages to support as a freelance writer and editor. Over the course of his life so far, he has eaten kangaroo meat, posed naked for a Tarot deck, and had his shoelace bitten in half by a rabbit.
For more about David and his work, please visit http://davidwriting.com.
David had the following story to share about why he wrote “Cat’s Canticle”:
“The cat I had when I wrote this poem passed on a few years back. She was a beauty, with long black fur and green eyes. Suspicious of strangers, yet deeply loving once you earned her trust. Her previous humans decided to have her euthanized when she didn’t get along with a kitten that someone had given them. But they mentioned this to a coworker who was rightfully appalled at their callousness, and put word out about a cat who needed a home. After two weeks hiding beneath her rescuer’s bed, and a car trip from Cleveland, Ohio, to East Rutherford, New Jersey, Sabrina came out of her carrier and bonded with us right away.
“Sabrina lived with us for ten good years, and another year of failing health. When she was ill, I saw a mug in a store, with a cat’s face sculpted on it, with the words, ‘This house is run solely for the comfort of the cat.’ I hesitated to buy it. I knew she would not be with us much longer. But my wife observed, correctly, that after she was gone, we would, in time, have another cat, and when we did, the house would be run for her comfort.
“She was right, of course. Beanie came from a friend in Buffalo, New York, whose daughter developed an allergy to the cats they already had. Beanie is white and orange, big and brash. She cuddles, whenever you let her, sometimes with her claws extended, and if you are not petting her, she demands it. If you are lying down, she assumes that means you are a bed, and she lies down on you. Her charm is completely different from Sabrina’s, but irresistible, just the same.
“In Shakespeare’s ‘Scottish play,’ Lord M—, now the king of Scotland, seeks counsel from the Weyard Sisters, who call forth spirits to answer his questions. When one of these spirits gives him a cryptic half-answer, the way oracles do, Lord M— demands clarification, and one of the Sisters says, ‘He will not be commanded.’
“It’s a small line, and hardly eloquent, and yet it is so powerful. He’s the king of Scotland, yet they put him in his place. I mean, in a different way from when they put him on the throne to begin with. And to me, that is the essence of a cat. A stubborn bit of mystery you invite into your home to not be commanded.”
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