When, for the umpteenth time he’s outflitted
within paw’s reach of the taunting bird, heart
goes out to him – his folly, persistence,
trapeze artiste’s brilliance. ‘Wings? Flight?’
you can hear him thinking, ‘Who could believe it?’
Cat, all us outreach workers crouched
in the blossoming foliage of our head-sets
are up there with you. Obsessed. Deluded.
Still hoping. Did God say something just then?
Was that a poem flew by? Tomorrow we’ll catch it.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2013. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2013 was David Robinson.
I'm including this poem by way of thanks to all the poets I've picked in this selection of Best Scottish Poems, and all the many, many others I enjoyed in the process of putting it together. But it made me laugh, as it was meant to: first at the cat's amazement, when reaching out to find that the bird had flown; and secondly, at the notion that poets, similarly, are ‘outreach’ workers, reaching out for an idea for a poem before it too takes flight. Obsessed, deluded or blindly optimistic they may be, but a world without poets on the hunt for words would be even worse than a world without cats on the hunt for birds.
I wrote this poem quite a long time ago when I had both a cat and an apple tree. Most of the time one hates the way cats try to kill birds, but this was one occasion when I felt a sympathy for the cat’s hopeless, despairing and foolish attempt to catch a particular bird. And then the analogy between catching a bird and catching a poem came to mind which led on to the knowledge of the very many poems possibly out there in the ether or which flit through the mind but never make it to a piece of paper.