While noodling around on YouTube the other day, I stumbled across what must surely be one of the supreme free verse poets of all time reading a gem of his own creation. I watched and listened astonished, transfixed. I was even discombobulated. It was an anonomous cat, declaiming a poem of such phenomenal depth and insight, that I nearly peed myself in exultation.
I was grateful for the subtitles, for the cat speaks with a heavy accent. Understandably so, for English is not the first language of most cats.
Here, as per the subtitles:
*Oh my dog
**Oh Long John
***Oh long Johnson
****Oh don piano
*****Why I eyes ya
******All the live long day.
We can more clearly appreciate the poet’s meaning with some scholarly notes:
*Oh my enemy. The dog is the traditional enemy of the cat.
**Oh fried frosted cake. The enemy is the desire for tasty food.
***Oh yearn penis. The enemy is the desire for sex.
****Oh become quiet. The poet begs his desires to wane
*****Why? I eyes you. Useless! The poet watches his enemies
******All the live long day. For they are with him constantly.
This is a cat at war with himself. For some reason, this cat has chosen a path of self-denial. But he feels no serenity of soul, no joy of virtue. There is no bird in his hand (or paw) and none in his bushes neither. He feels only anger, frustration and regret.
See his anger boil up as he quotes the line “Why? I eyes ya” Observe how his ears flatten and his eyes gleam. He hates his enemy of food and sex even as he desires both.
Now you are probably saying, “Two Cats, you incompetent sow! Cats don’t desire fried frosted cake! They can’t even taste sweet things! Wouldn’t it have made more sense for the poet to have said, “Oh fresh tuna”?”
Ah, but this shows the true genius in his choice of expression. Consider the closing line, “all the live long day”. Why would a master poet choose to close a poem, by which he hopes to reach immortality among artists, with such a time-worn cliche?
But what is a cliche, really? It is a phrase that is so universally used that its literary patina has worn off. And it is this universal trait that the cat is bewailing.
We are all, cat and human, at heart, hedonists. We want what we want when we want it. We find no inherent solace in the denial of our desires. Asceticism wears off the patina of our own natural souls. This is true across all life, across all species. Well, maybe not rock lichen. Rock lichen doesn’t give a shit about anything. Sit right on it, it won’t care.
But that’s beside the point. This cat is denying with an anguished cry that the true path to enlightenment is not the extinguishment of the self, but rather the embracing of it. The cat is rejecting the philosophy of buddhism utterly.
Now you may say to me, “Two Cats, you tedious hellbeast. All that may be true, but why does the cat drop into Italian in the fourth line, and then back into English?”
I dunno. Maybe he’s just showing off.