Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Winning March Poem

Caroline Johnson, Vice President of Poets and Patrons of Chicago, served as consulting judge for March. Here is the winning poem:

Why I Collect Cats

because her many teats
hang from a rib-revealing
frame, and six kittens
call with mewling bleats
from the window well next door

because, with an abscess over one eye
and another behind his ear, he prowls
the neighborhood, trilling yowls
and he still has balls

because he is eating scraps and bread crumbs
meant for birds

because she’s a calico
because he’s long haired
short haired, a gray tiger,
an orange tiger
she’s a brindle, a tortie
black with white markings
white with blue eyes

and deaf, blind in one eye
sick with feline aids
weak with anemia
dying of leukemia
because he limps on two paws, broken
long before he appeared at my home

because they absorb sun on the sidewalk
or in the window sill, or on the kitchen floor
and power warmth to my feet in bed
pour heat against my back
purr on my head
and in my lap while I nap

I collect cats
not because she sprays the coffee pot
when my sister visits
not because he vomits on the pale carpet
not because she shreds the furniture
nor because I have to wait until she weans the kittens
before I have her spayed

I keep cats
because they have lived with me
longer than my husband
after my children left home
more faithfully than my ex-lover

I keep cats
because after eighteen years
or twenty, or fifteen
I want to hold the ex-tom
paralyzed by a stroke
the sway-backed mama
consumed by a tumor
when I help them die
when I tell them goodbye.

I collect cats one at a time
because he came to me wounded
because she was pregnant
because he was hungry
and so was I..

-- by Susan Fleming Holm

Of this poem, Johnson said, “It is compassionate and real. It is beautifully detailed and shows an obvious love for the subject matter. The poem itself is almost a metaphor for the imperfections of humans. It also has a beautiful rhythm as well. It brought tears to my eyes, especially the lines:

I want to hold the ex-tom
paralyzed by a stroke
the sway-backed mama
consumed by a tumor
when I help them die
when I tell them goodbye.”

The narrator values cats for their loyalty and for the warmth they bring (literally and figuratively) into her life. Part of the appeal of the poem is that the narrator collects cats for the very reasons why many people don’t keep cats: cats sometimes vomit on the carpet, tear up the furniture, yowl as they prowl the neighborhood Beyond that, the narrator of this poem is especially drawn to cats with abscesses or leukemia, hungry cats, needy cats.

In a strong ending, the narrator reveals that she needs the cats which needs her.

NOTE: Winning poems posted on this blog are sole property of the poets who submitted them.

© 2010 Wilda Morris