Treasure Island

Rainer Maria Rilke

(4 December 1875 – 29 December 1926 / Prague / Czech Republic)

Black Cat


A ghost, though invisible, still is like a place
your sight can knock on, echoing; but here
within this thick black pelt, your strongest gaze
will be absorbed and utterly disappear:

just as a raving madman, when nothing else
can ease him, charges into his dark night
howling, pounds on the padded wall, and feels
the rage being taken in and pacified.

She seems to hide all looks that have ever fallen
into her, so that, like an audience,
she can look them over, menacing and sullen,
and curl to sleep with them. But all at once

as if awakened, she turns her face to yours;
and with a shock, you see yourself, tiny,
inside the golden amber of her eyeballs
suspended, like a prehistoric fly.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Bridie Crann (9/30/2006 3:46:00 PM)

    Love that twisty ending; reminiscent of 'The Panther”—only rather than the cat caught in the center of man’s confinement, it is man reduced and trapped within the eternal gaze of the cat. So what was it with Rilke and black cats, anyway? And here she takes the role of a kind of innocuous black hole, absorbing without comment whatever he brings her, until that time when she turns her head and—there you are. Sinister! I rated this little gem a 10.
    ; -) (Report) Reply

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