The Cat

September 25, 2007 at 11:37 pm 3 comments

Ryan Alexander

Listen (to Dore read)

She came to me skittish, wild.
The way you’re meant to be,
Surrounded by cruelty.
I did not blame her.
I would do the same.

A pregnant cat, a happy distraction
Some sort of normal thing
Calico and innocent.

The kittens in her belly said feed me.

And I did.

She crept with careful eye,
body held low to the dirt,
snagged a bite,
and carried it just far enough away.

She liked the MREs
the beef stew, the chicken breast, the barbeque pork,
But she did not like canned sardines.
I do not blame her.
I would do the same.

She came around again and again
finally deciding that I was no threat
That this big man wasn’t so bad.

I was afraid to touch her as the docs warned us
Iraqi animals were carriers of flesh-eating disease.
I donned a plastic glove and was the first to pet
This wild creature who may be

The one true heart and mind that America
Had won over.

After a while I forgot the glove and enjoyed
The tactile softness of short fur,
Flesh-eating bacteria be dammed.

Her belly swole for weeks
And she disappeared for some days
Until her kittens were safely birthed
In the shallow of a rusted desk
In the ruins that lined the road behind us.

She came around again slim
With afterbirth still matted to her hind legs
She was back again, but not quite as often
She came to eat and for attention
But there was nursing to be done.

One day she crept up with a kitten in her mouth
She dropped it at my foot and stared up at me
She expected something, but there was nothing I could do
The young black and white kitten was dead
It’s eyes not yet opened.

It looked like some shriveled old wise thing
Completely still, mouth puckered
Small body curled and limp.

She let me take the baby without a fight
She knew, but seemed unaffected.

She fetched me a gift,
A lesson,
among the worried nights
Shot nerves from poorly aimed mortar rounds:

Everything dies
the evil, the innocent
Her baby and

I thought I should say a prayer and bury
This poor little thing
But I did for it what will be done for me

I laid it in the burn can amongst the ash
And said I’m sorry.

Ryan Alexander
3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division,
Stryker Brigade Combat Team
Mosul, Iraq


I couldn’t have found a better poem to follow the Levertov and the Komunyakaa. The Cat complements both poems beautifully. It takes you inside the mind of a solider and it gives a voice to the other side in Levertov’s poem (then I must learn to distrust/ my own preference for trusting people).

So many elements in this poem can be interesting metaphors – the pregnant cat, the gloves, the MRE food supplies. Though the slow and hesitant, but trusting relationship between Ryan and the cat, in the midst of all the fear and destruction is deeply moving in itself.

Thanks for the poem, Dore!

Welcome our new guest contributor Dore! He hosts Tangents (a radio program that explores the bridges connecting various styles of music, such as world and roots music, and creative jazz hybrids). If you live in the San Francisco bay area, you must check out his Tangents Parties.



Entry filed under: Black Mamba, Dore, English, Ryan Alexander.

Thanks The Man with the Hearing Aid

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. hatshepsut  |  October 23, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    It’s been a while since I’ve been here. I was really moved by “The Cat”. Trawling through NPR’s website, I found that Ryan Alexander has been featured on their series ‘War and Literature’. You can listen to Ryan read his own poem on their website (‘Ryan Alexander Reads ‘The Cat”):

  • 2. Aruna  |  October 12, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    I am having a problem with downloading the audio. Is it just me?

  • 3. Kobold Staubsauger  |  December 17, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Aw, this was a really nice post. In thought I would like to place in writing in this way moreover – taking time and actual effort to create a very good article but what / things I say I procrastinate alot and also no indicates apparently get something done. 596738


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