A Cat is Just a Cat, but
lately I see the cat and feel a love for her
that is sharp and unexpected. I look at her
(looking at me) and realize I understand her
perfectly. How is that possible? She catches
my eyes and holds them. I don’t know
what she wants, and yet there’s a purity
and simplicity of intention there. I know
she wants something—a treat? To go out?
To be stroked? But, not knowing what,
yet I understand perfectly her wanting,
and then I understand that slight frown
of frustration at my not knowing what she wants,
and then she rubs her head against my ankle, and
I understand perfectly that she thinks she needs
to win me over, and when her tail starts to swish,
I understand perfectly what is escalating there…
so I move to the door to see if she follows
or turns toward the cat dish or…--eventually
I figure it out. Sometimes I even come to see
that she doesn’t know what she wants, is feeling
bad and wants me to do something about it.
But long before I know what she wants,
I understand her perfectly.
I get the intention, that insistent, gripping look.
It’s pure, free of significance, like a phrase
from a late Beethoven string quartet, just a few notes
that ping home a longing or exultation. It’s music.
How can this be? Because nearly all of communication
is recognition. A Zulu greeting translates “I see you.”
The cat sees me. I see the cat. I see that she sees me.
She sees that I see her.
A person can go for lifetimes starving for this.
can be so numbed to the possibility of it
(What parent ever sees the child, what child its parent?)
that it is a shock when it ambushes him
from a book, movie, song…or even a cat
It is often said that cats are hard to understand
or that women or men or children are beyond understanding.
I see this and understand it. This puzzlement
is as clear and simple as the cat’s when she is frustrated
by my perfect failure to understand.