Diane Hine (25 July 1956)
A grey cat with vivid green eyes
hid in long grass beside a letterbox.
Two birds hopped and skipped along the path.
The cat’s attention was fixed.
The birds looked a little like corellas or galahs;
white with grey, pink and peach trims.
They stopped in front of the letterbox.
This was unusual behaviour for birds.
Their stillness distracted the cat which blinked
as if awakening from a trance.
Its eyes flicked up past my dull T-shirt
and met my face. The ‘birds’ were my sneakers.
The cat was beautiful; a ‘Russian Blue’ I guessed.
“Hello Gorgeous”, I said cordially.
The cat looked shocked. It spoke;
not in words but in body language,
as eloquent as any sign language:
~~I don’t know you! ~~ (the meaning was clear)
~~You’re looking at me. WHY are you looking at me? ~~
The cat looked so indignant, I felt I owed a reply.
“No I wasn’t, ” I mumbled defensively,
“my sneakers were.” This was true in a way,
since my sneakers had ‘eyelets’ for laces.
“Anyway, you were looking at my sneakers.”
The cat shrugged, ~~So what if I was?
Кошка может смотреть на простолюдина…. ~~
This put me at a disadvantage;
I could read body language, but not in Russian.
The cat noticed my confusion and kindly
translated, ~~A cat may look at a commoner…….but
nowhere is it written that a commoner may look at a cat.~~
This was a fair point. I’d never heard……
“Hang on a minute, ” I said. “You mean queen surely?
A cat may look at a queen.”
The cat replied regally, ~~By subtension……~~
I must have looked blank, because the cat enunciated
condescendingly, ~~Sub-ten-sion, the opposite of extension.~~
“Yes I know that, ” I fibbed.
~~By subtension, since a cat may look at a queen,
then it may certainly look at a commoner.~~
The cat flicked a last disdainful glance at my sneakers
signing, ~~And those birds are as common as K-mart.~~
This was true. I couldn’t think of a reply.
The cat turned its back to me and swished its tail.
I didn’t have a tail to swish.
My sneakers and I trudged home.
I looked up ‘subtension’ in the dictionary.
The word doesn’t exist.
Next time I meet the cat, I shall tell it so.
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