Monday, July 6, 2009

Identity Crisis

Guest poem by F. D. Reeve

He was urged to prepare for success: "You never can tell,
he was told over and over; "others have made it;
one dare not presume to predict. You never can tell.

Who’s Who in America lists the order of cats
in hunting, fishing, bird-watching, farming,
domestic service--the dictionary order of cats

who have made it. Those not in the book are beyond the pale.
Not to succeed in you chosen profession is unthinkable.
Either you make it or--you’re beyond the pale.

Do you understand?"
"No," he shakes his head.
"Are you ready to forage for freedom?"
"No," he adds,
"I mean, why is a cat always shaking his head?

Because he’s thinking: who am I? I am not
only one-ninth of myself. I always am
all of the selves I have been and will be but am not."

"The normal cat," I tell him, "soon adjusts
to others and to changing circumstances;
he makes his way the way he soon adjusts."

"I can’t," he says, "perhaps because I’m blue,
big-footed, lop-eared, socially awkward, impotent,
and I drink too much, whether because I’m blue

or because I like it, who knows. I want to escape
at five o’clock into an untouchable world
where the top is the bottom and everyone wants to escape

from the middle, everyone, every day. I mean,
I have visions of two green eyes rising
out of the ocean, blinking, knowing what I mean."

"Never mind the picture, repeat after me
the self’s creed. What he tells you you
tells me and I repeats. Now, after me:

I love myself, I wish I would live well.
Your gift of love breaks through my self-defeat.
All prizes are blue. No cat admits defeat.
The next time that he lives he will live well."

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