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Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Joseph Ceravolo: Cat of Eternity


Street cat, Morocco: photo by Albert Jacob, 18 November 2008

About 2 feet from the curb, in the street
a cat was crouched.  From afar I thought
it was sniffing, but as I got closer
I knew.  It was looking down at the ground,
looking at eternity, breathing,
its head down like a disappointment.
It was only a cat,
dirty, black and white, solid
as a wooden beam, not underfed.
Cars swerved left.  I picked it up,
this lump of breath.
What is the noble truth of death?  Blindness
turned inward to endless seas
as the struggle ebbs far away.

Joseph Ceravolo (1934-1988): Cat of Eternity (February 25, 1987), from Mad Angels (poems 1976-1988), in Collected Poems, 2013

 Cat, Morocco: photo by Albert Jacob, 20 January 2013

 Street cat, Morocco: photo by Sallyrango (Sally Walton), 7 October 2012


TC said...

Joe Ceravolo, poet of eternity.

His work not so well known, perhaps.

But considering what's involved in becoming well known these days -- not to mention the fact that so much of what is well known is worthless and will be forgotten before morning -- maybe that not-so-well-knownness shouldn't be considered a drawback.

In any case I'm too old and far gone to worry much about any of that. The list of poets who matter to me isn't all that long, after all these years. And in case anybody cares to know who they are, chances are you'll be able to find samples of their work here, and their names in the Contents index.

Joseph Ceravolo: Beginner Method

Joseph Ceravolo: Dusk

Joseph Ceravolo: Lighthouse

Joseph Ceravolo: May



Thanks for all this -- these cats in Morocco, this poem with its "lump of breath" . . . he too in eternity.


light coming into fog against invisible
top of ridge, sparrow calling on branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

explicitly what it is, that
is itself description

pictorial, becomes the idea
of order, can one say

sun rising behind trees at top of ridge
blue whiteness of sky across from point

TC said...

Well, yes, Steve, he got there ahead of us, all right.

There is maybe an "idea / of order", or a sempiternal precedence, hid somewhere in that.

(We've still got some catching up to do...)

Auto-stopping my way about North Africa way back when, at one point I was suspended for a week between promised lifts (the lift that got away...), in Rabat, hanging out at a youth hostel close to the beach, and there I discovered the incredibly vast stray cat population of Maroc.

It seemed none of them ever got much to eat, their heads were bigger around than their poor half-starved pipe-stem bodies, but that didn't seem to do much to discourage their formidable intent to survive -- in fact, if anything, they seemed more alert and active than our houseful of indulged furry darlings.

From these photos it appears the stray cats of that part of the world are a bit better-fed these days. Though one ingredient in that equation may well be the sardines which, judging by the evidence in the street cats of Morocco photo portfolio, the photographers distribute generously enough as bribes. Or shall we say inducements. In any case, Albert Jacob has taken very many great photos of those cats, all over that country... and in about half those photos, if one looks closely, one sees telltale bits of sardine-remains.

Nora said...

Years and years ago, when I was visiting Hong Kong with a friend, we stopped on an island that had a 75-foot statue of the Buddha and a large stray dog population. Perhaps because of all the pilgrims, the dogs seemed well cared for. The littlest of them was dressed, for some reason, a cat costume (maroon, I think, with leopard spots and pink ears), looking like one of the lost boys from Walt Disney's version of Peter Pan.

Hazen said...

Nice, nice. And the cats too. Ceravolo, or anyone who dares take on “the noble truth” of eternity, gets my vote for writers/thinkers who matter.

Auto stop. Haven't heard that in a long while.

Jonathan Chant said...

love everything about this post. thanks Tom.

Marie W said...

Beautiful poem. ...this lump of breath. Maybe my favourite line. Holding a life that is slowly breathing away, in one's hands. And as usual it is well worth clicking on the links, yes, yes, yes, it is. Thank you, Tom.
It's funny how certain cities seem to be prone to (that is not the right word but it just sounds funny) stray cats. The cats of Rabat the Blue, oh yes. Many of them.
And how about a cup of coffee while playing with cats? Tokyo has a countless amount of themed coffee shops and this one is quite popular these days. This and the maid cafe', of course. It's hard to chose :-)

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

The same kind of over-size headed strays can be found scrounging for food in the back alleys of urban Hellas; unfortunately these days, they have to fight over the scraps with the bipeds that have taken to ransacking the garbage cans in response to IMF shock therapy.

TC said...

Many thanks, friends. A bit of a respite from all that fighting over the scraps.

That cat cafe... we counted ten. Went back and forth on the possible #11 -- that mysterious shadowy object at the feet of the young couple on the right -- ?

Here we've long been a soft touch for strays, many of them in or approaching that sad state of Joe's eternity cat.

Of course it's the raggedest and most bedraggled of strays, the ones conventional wisdom regards as untouchable, that most need any random act of kindness.

This memorializes the last days of a poor old cat afflicted with feline AIDS, who took up residence on an exposed corner here on the freeway feeder as a kind of last stand. But he could no longer stand. Neighbours constructed a sort of lean-to hutch out of a recycling bin, and we left food for him. He made it that way for a few months, then vanished, the din of traffic roaring past providing his Requiem.


Unknown said...

Lovely poem. I treated myself to the recent edition of Joseph Ceravolo's Collected Poems - now making a leisurely progress through its pages.

Marie W said...

I am counting 11 / 12? You are right there is that mysterious shadow at the feet of the couple, and also that mysterious flat shadow lying on their table. Maybe he has been flattered too, in a Vizma kind of way.
I wonder if eternity is disappointing. They must know.

TC said...

Good news, Simon. (It seems perhaps I spoke a bit too soon about that not-so-well-knownness.)

Marie, we think it's fair to say that flattened shadow under the table should count as at least half a cat.

Our cats have chequered histories. Before adopting us they lived under cars, on fences, in the bushes. After leaving us they go off into eternity, leaving us here, missing them very much.