Gert Strydom

Gold Star - 30,073 Points (03 April 1964 / Johannesburg, South Africa)

Sonnets Of The Boy Who Drew Cats - Poem by Gert Strydom


A long time ago
when soldiers still carried spears and swords
a Japanese farmer and his wife,
had a string of children
and everyone got a task.

They milked cows, cared after pigs,
gathered chicken eggs
and ploughed the soil,
planted rice, wheat and oats,
but the youngest was too weak and small
to do any work
and time and again he neglected his duties
and disappeared
and drew cats.


The farmer scratched his head
and did not know what to do
with a child that disappears
and couldn’t complete a task and drew
big and small, white, black, ginger and pied cats
of each size and type.

So the farmer and his wife reckoned
to take the child to the nearest temple
to become a priest
and the farmer tied his sword around his side,
loaded the child on a horse
saddled his own horse
and maybe the men of God
would learn the child about duties.


The child studied well
but nobody could stop him
from drawing cats everywhere
and it happened
that the priest thought
that he couldn’t
become a priest and rather
be an artist.

The child was sent
to a temple farther away
and the priest instructed him
to avoid big places at night
and to find a sleeping place
in a small place.


The temple was abandoned
because a evil goblin
coming from the dark earth,
expelled the priests
and the soldiers
that went to face him
had all disappeared.

At night a light burned
in the temple
and when the boy arrived
he went in and everywhere
that he found a white screen he painted a cat
and he remembered the words of the old priest
and went to sleep in a small cabinet.


That night he heard a big noise
of a great fight
and cats roaring like lions
growling angrily
while something tried to
smash and pierce them
and he heard them
ripping something to pieces.

The next morning
a goblin
with the head of a rat,
with a pronged whip and sword in his hands
was dead in the middle of the temple
where he lost the fight.


There was still wet blood
on the mouths of the cats
on the screens
and they looked innocent
and vulnerable.

When the priests returned
they immediately saw
what happened
and they declared
boy a hero
and later he was renown
as a painter
that only paints cats.

[Reference: With thanks to “Japanese Fairy Tales, The boy who drew cats” by Lafcadio Hearn that gave me the idea of this poem.]

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Poem Submitted: Monday, December 14, 2009

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