Ahmad Shawqi

((1868–1932))

An Encounter with a Mother Cat


I shall never forget a night in Ramadan,
Long and somber like the polar nights
I had just entered my room
After finishing my last meal before daybreak;
Browsing through books of poetry or biography
I was alarmed by what seemed to be the meowing of a cat;
I arose and closely listened, while searching behind curtains and under beds
Suddenly I chanced upon that which braved my quarters,
Face to face we stood, looking each other in the eye
Here eyes, first ash dull, now glowed like live embers,
She jumped, snake-like, and repeatedly hissed
Putting on the appearance of a tigress, from behind the screen,
She charged me then ran away, like a coward feigning courage
She projected her whiskers like needles;
Raised a paw and wiggled a tail, like a winnowing fork
Suddenly she abandoned meowing; whined and whimpered instead.
However, I did not punish her for showing such anger toward me
I wasn't unaware of her weakness, nor unmindful of my strength,
Yet saw in her only a mother trying to protect her young
I saw a scene that melts the heart of a poet;
Beheld a mother's earnestness in raising a family
I tried to pacify her until she felt reassured,
Then I brought her water to drink and something to eat
I further placed my coat around her,
And made her even warmer by placing my firebox near her
Had I a trap, I would also have brought her a mouse.
She presently stretched peacefully and savored the moment
She purred and prayed; not knowing what she was repeating,
Her breasts generating more milk while her kittens indulged
So tiny and helpless they seemed! tossing about their mother's belly
They jostled and squalled, like the blind around a dining table
They looked like little toads in a bowl.
I said: your babies are in no danger, dear neighbor
Whether you have a littler of five or ten,
You and your children are under my protection
Until they grow up and able to fend for themselves.

Submitted: Friday, September 13, 2013
Edited: Friday, September 13, 2013

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

Translated by: Mahmoud Abbas Masoud

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