The author and cat-lover Ellen Perry Berkeley famously quipped: “As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat”. Indeed, Ann Ang’s “For I Will Consider Miss Rachel Cat”—her personal response to Christopher Smart’s well-known litany ‘For I will consider my cat Jeoffrey‘ in Jubilate Agno—is an endearing poem that seems to begin with such a premise. Yet, Ang’s metalyric beautifully moves from quirky description to intellectual contemplation, leaving us to reflect upon our own assumptions of agency, and the emotional transactions that occur between our pets and us.
For I will consider my meow, Miss Rachel Cat.
At first sight, she is a dirty mottled question,
a curvature of space in the corner.
She doesn’t care about your assumptions
that she is a cat which is a cat who is cat.
The world is an imbecile until it leaves her alone
or submits a humble tribute of fried fish
from sufficient distance so as to make her a queen.
Her small mew is factual acceptance
of how a cat is never just an object.
For a cat is a fling with a non-compliant thing;
for Miss Rachel Cat cannot be bought or sold;
for she will scratch the nose of Capitalist Ownership;
for her dominion is as vast as where she prowls
or distilled darkly as a Tiger’s Shadow;
for there is no lie about Miss Rachel Cat.
In stretching, she is essence;
in annoyance, she brooks no negotiation;
in hunger, she is supplicant and kitten.
For there is no ethics in the tribe of Cat,
no theorising, no bargaining;
no choice, for her snarl is Fate.
All responsibility lies with the onlooker
who in admiration is subjected
and subverted, thwarted
in death and life, seven times seven.
For she can suffer a stroke;
for she can sleep.
ANN ANG’s poetry, fiction and non-fiction have appeared in various publications and journals. The second edition of her Singlish-English collection of short stories, Bang My Car, was recently published and is available from http://www.booksactuallyshop.com/. Ann also has a slightly eclectic taste for modernist writing and counts William Faulkner as one of her old flames. On good days, she reads Bulgakov; on bad days, she writes.
Photo credit: Victoria Lee