Treasure Island

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.

Submitted: Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Edited: Tuesday, May 14, 2013

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  • Danny Draper (5/20/2013 4:27:00 AM)

    What a great poem of creative story and language. A moment or few unfolded and shared, with just a hint of sub tension in the plot. (Report) Reply

  • Wahab Abdul (5/19/2013 11:21:00 PM)

    wow..excellent poem, diane hine is my favourite poet, love this poem very much (Report) Reply

  • Owain Glyn (5/18/2013 1:25:00 PM)

    What a wonderful piece. Pets fool us humans all the time, and cats are the masters! ! (Report) Reply

  • David Wood (5/17/2013 10:53:00 AM)

    I have a stray cat that meanders through my garden from time to time but my dog, Clara, chases it away into nex doors garden. A lovely write Diane as usual. (Report) Reply

  • Valsa George (5/16/2013 8:14:00 AM)

    Reading your poems, I often wonder how your brain broods on themes and topics quite different from the run of the mill type! Incidentally, now I am stealthily feeding a stray kitten at my backyard that has sneaked into my house and has been repeatedly and mercilessly driven away by my husband! But it doesn't talk to me as your cat does! Somehow I rejoice over the glitter in its blue eyes at the sight of the morsel, I occasionally give! ! it swishes its tail/ I don't have a tail to swish! ! (Report) Reply

  • Search 2 (5/15/2013 7:55:00 PM)

    ........... Obliged to honour the fauna and flora of all kinds,
    Mindful of all that walk on the earth and fly in the sky
    With an eye that sees every speck of landscape
    Thou remainth dear Diane Hine!

    I Salute your consistency and commitment here, marveleous Poet. (Report) Reply

  • Captain Cur (5/15/2013 2:11:00 PM)

    The word subtension does exist in (Skunk and Wagtails) Dictionary.
    This is what you get when you walk on birds and argue with cats.
    Very clever poem, I like it. The Birds said to give you a ten, the cat just shrugged. (Report) Reply

  • Paul Brookes (5/15/2013 11:07:00 AM)

    A feline description that's spot on such great observation I was there with you. Such a vivid poem10/10 Ah subtension remember

    The cat abides by no ones laws
    She makes her own with teeth and claws.

    P H Brookes. Cat from Terse Verse (Report) Reply

  • Bobby Wynn (5/14/2013 9:36:00 AM)

    Now I know it all! What a cat must think of me though when i sneak up on it with feathers on. (Report) Reply

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