Poetry: The Sadness of the Creatures | clivejames.com
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The Sadness of the Creatures

We live in a third-floor flat
among gentle predators
and our food comes often
frozen but in its own shape
(for we hate euphemisms
as you would expect) and our cat’s
food comes in tins, other than
scraps of the real thing and she
like a clever cat makes milk
of it for her kittens: we shout
of course but it’s electric
like those phantom storms
in the tropics and we think of
the neighbours – I’m not writing
this to say how guilty
we are like some well-paid
theologian at an American
College on a lake
or even to congratulate
the greedy kittens who have
found their mittens and are up
to their eyes in pie – I know
lots of ways of upsetting
God’s syllogisms, real
seminar-shakers some of them,
but I’m an historical cat
and I run on rails and so
I don’t frame those little poems
which take three lines to
get under your feet –
you know the kind of thing –
The water I boiled the lobster in
is cool enough to top
up the chrysanthemums
No, I’m acquisitive and have
one hundred and seven Bach
Cantatas at the last count,
but these are things of the spirit
and my wife and our children
and I are animals (biologically
speaking) which is how the world
talks to us, moving on the billiard
table of green London, the sun’s
red eye and the cat’s green eye
focusing for an end. I know
and you know and we all know
that a certain end of each of us
could be the end of all of us,
but if you asked me what
frightened me most, I wouldn’t
say the total bang or even
the circling clot in the red drains
but the picture of a lit room
where two people not disposed
to quarrel have met so
oblique a slant of the dark
they can find no words for
their appalled hurt but only
ride the rearing greyness:
there is convalescence from this,
jokes and love and reassurance,
but never enough and never
convincing and when the cats
come brushing for food their soft
aggression is hateful;
the trees rob the earth and the earth
sucks the rain and the children
burgeon in a time of invalids –
it seems a trio sonata
is playing from a bullock’s
skull and the God of Man
is born in a tub of entrails;
all man’s regret is no more
then Attila with a cold
and no Saviour here or
in Science Fiction will come
without a Massacre of the Innocents
and a Rape of El Dorado. 

(from The Last of England, 1970)