Another of my friends turns older today, and this post is thus in honour of her. In the event you are getting a little sick of all these hurrah posts- it not my fault half my friends are Cancerian, and you can rest assured them posts will now cease for a while. (I use the sun-sign only to classify. I don’t believe in zodiac poofery. Tarot I am gullible enough to accept, but I will NOT be clubbed willy-nilly with a twelfth of mankind.)
It is further to let Interested Parties know that the great day of her birth is today, in case of a most predictable reticence on her part. It is also, shall we say, intended as fair warning. Happy birthday, Joni!
I have run out of clever birthday things to say, so this post is mostly poems and pictures involving cats. This is apt, for reasons that might appear apposite to folk aware of her only as the grandest bitch of us all (this is a compliment, as we well know, so hush outsider pansies).
Suffice it to say that the cat above is the only one I have ever met capable of curling up as definitively as Ms. Mistoffelees.
— Eliot, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats
You ought to know Ms. Mistoffelees!
The Original Conjuring Cat–
(There can be no doubt about that).
Please listen to me and don’t scoff. All her
Inventions are off her own bat.
There’s no such Cat in the metropolis;
She holds all the patent monopolies
For performing surprising illusions
And creating eccentric confusions.
And at legerdemain
She’ll defy examination
And deceive you again.
The greatest magicians have something to learn
From Ms. Mistoffelees’ Conjuring Turn.
Away we go!
And we all say: OH!
Well I never!
Was there ever
A Cat so clever
As Magical Ms. Mistoffelees!
She is quiet and small, She is black
From her ears to the tip of her tail;
She can creep through the tiniest crack,
She can walk on the narrowest rail.
She can pick any card from a pack,
She is equally cunning with dice;
She is always deceiving you into believing
That she’s only hunting for mice.
She can play any trick with a cork
Or a spoon and a bit of fish-paste;
If you look for a knife or a fork
And you think it is merely misplaced–
You have seen it one moment, and then it is gawn!
But you’ll find it next week lying out on the lawn.
Her manner is vague and aloof,
You would think there was nobody shyer–
But her voice has been heard on the roof
When She was curled up by the fire.
And she’s sometimes been heard by the fire
When She was about on the roof–
(At least we all heard that somebody purred)
Which is incontestable proof
Of her singular magical powers:
And I have known the family to call
her in from the garden for hours,
While she was asleep in the hall.
And not long ago the phenomenal Cat
Produced seven kittens right out of a hat!
And we all said: OH!
Well I never!
Did you ever
Know a Cat so clever
As Magical Ms. Mistoffelees!
I changed the gender of the poem right through, so the twist in the end might be somewhat anti-climatic. But anyone acquainted with the Magical Mistoffelees knows the day she ends up with little mistofelees in her hat (part beast, part fowl) is the day the rest of us should run for cover. Till that terrifying day, we go on the midnight prowl together.
Cats on the Prowl
The Cats’ Protection League
— Roger McGough, Bad, Bad Cats.
Midnight. A knock at the door.
Open it? Better had.
Three heavy cats, mean and bad.
They offer protection. I ask, ‘What for?’
The Boss-cat snarls, ‘You know the score.
Listen man, and listen good
If you wanna stay in the neighbourhood,
Pay your dues or the toms will call
And wail each night on the backyard wall.
Mangle the flowers, and as for the lawn
a smelly minefield awaits you at dawn.’
These guys meant business without a doubt
Three cans of tuna, I handed them out.
They then disappeared like bats into hell
Those bad, bad cats from the CPL.
I should tell you the cats’ cabal demands a lot more than tuna these days. Another poem about Mafia cats, read by the master himself:
Muffin, The Cat.
— Roger McGough, Tractor
When Muffin (not the mule) called
Around midnight to inspect the room.
I was, at first, distinctly cool.
Until, remembering the New Me,
I praised felinity and made tea.
Offered her a biscuit. A cigarette.
Tried to make conversation.
She’d not be drawn. Not beaten yet.
I showed her my collection
Of Yugoslavian beermats.
She was unimpressed. (Queer, cats)
A 2 a.m. I got out the whiskey
She turned up her nose.
After a few glasses I told her
About the problems at home.
The job. My soul I laid bare.
And all she did was stare.
Curled up on the duvet.
With that cat-like expression.
Now a mew. Imagine the scene;
I felt like an intruder
On the bed with the Queen.
But I soldiered on till morning
And despite her constant yawning
Told her what was wrong with the country.
The class system, nuclear disarmament,
The unions, free range eggs.
I don’t know what time she left.
I fell asleep. Woke up at four
With a hangover the size of a Yorkshire moor.
And my tongue (dare I say it) furry.
Finally, in commiseration with people who find themselves in the unusual predicament of fraternising with poets, I provide an appeal from the ages. (full-service blog, this, and don’t let anyone say otherwise.)
An Appeal to Cats in the Business of Love.
– Thomas Flatman (1637-’88), The Oxford Book of Comic Verse.
Men ride many miles,
Cats tread many tiles.
Both hazard their necks in the fray;
Only cats, when they fall
From a house or a wall,
Keep their feat, mount their tails, and away!