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Vijay Nambisan

Cats Have No Language

Cats have no language to tell their world.
The moon is a midsummer's madness
That satisfies foolish chroniclers;
But their paws gloat on the captured mouse
(The slither beneath the stair); the silent bat
That drifted on a moonbeam into the house
Slashed a slitted eye into a flicker
And was gone. The moon is too much for the cat.

The light is too much for cats: that is why,
At the human snarl behind the torch
The keen eyes turn slate, a careless slouch
Replaces the studied artistry, frozen flash
Before the kill. They do not like the light
But have no language save the curving slash
And the sideways sculpture at a whisker's touch.
Cats are dumb when they walk in the night.

Cats are clever at night; but the sun
Melts the moon's glitter out of their eyes,
Leaves them children's toys and the green trees.
Now how can fingers soothe the shoulder knots,
Trust the silken purr, the kind eyes? My cat,
I know, I have seen her sleeping thoughts
Tense and stalk savagely in the night's peace.
But cats need no language to do that.

Madras Central

The black train pulls in at the platform,
Hissing into silence like hot steel in water.
Tell the porters not to be so precipitate-
It is good, after a desperate journey,
To rest a moment with your perils upon you.

The long rails recline into a distance
Where tomorrow will come before I know it.
I cannot be in two places at once:
That is axiomatic. Come, we will go and drink
A filthy cup of tea in a filthy restaurant.

It is difficult to relax. But my head spins
Slower and slower as the journey recedes.
I do not think I shall smoke a cigarette now.
Time enough for that. Let me make sure first
For the hundredth time, that everything's complete.

My wallet's in my pocket; the white nylon bag
With the papers safe in its lining-fine;
The book and my notes are in the outside pocket;
The brown case is here with all its straps secure.
I have everything I began the journey with,

And also a memory of my setting out
When I was confused, so confused. Terrifying
To think we have such power to alter our states,
Order comings and goings: know where we're not wanted
And carry our unwantedness somewhere else.


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