Wild kingdom

It’s 4:30 a.m. so why am I awake?  Because my wild beast (ok, cat) just brought in his latest hunt, a smallish, trembling gray mouse!

Little Clarence is very well-fed — as our vet likes to say, at fifteen pounds, he’s not so little anymore — so it isn’t hunger that motivates him.  He never eats his prey.  He just likes to toy with them.  Torture is his motif.

First, though, he has to bring them inside to wherever I am.  I don’t know whether this bring-the-food-to-mama behavior is instinct, flattery, tribute, safety, or nurturing.  Maybe, as one friend suggested, he thinks I’m too stupid to feed myself (especially now that I’m vegan).  Really, who will ever know what a cat thinks?  One time he brought a live, flapping bluejay into the bedroom. I woke up to terrified squawking and fierce meowing, and had NO idea what was happening.

Anyway, after he brings his catch in, he’ll torment it by chasing it, grabbing it in his mouth, and letting it go, only to chase and grab again.  This can go on for hours or even days if I don’t intervene and if the creature doesn’t die of shock or mauling.

At first I used to squeal, jump on top of the bed, and call George in a panic (she had four cats so she knew what to do).  These days I’m more sanguine.  Still, I can’t quite just roll over and go back to sleep, especially not with L.C. chasing the mouse all around the bedroom. 

Luckily my bedroom has a back door that opens onto the back yard.  So I pick up the cat, sequester him (complaining loudly) in the hallway, open the back door from the bedroom, and try to nudge the mouse or bird out with a broom if I can.  Today’s mouse was hiding behind furniture so I just left the room, hoping that its survival instinct will lead it to follow the cold air to the outdoors. 

Nonsequiter: The title of this entry reminds me of a great book of poetry, Wild Kingdom by Vijay Seshadri.  It was one of the first books I stumbled upon by a desi writer. His language is gorgeous and his poems, in this and later books, have an enormous range. 

I’m not sure if I’m allowed to post someone else’s poem on my blog, but I’m going to, at least until I’m told not to.  I had the chance to hear Seshadri read a couple of years ago, and was moved by this poem from his book The Long Meadow:


Orwell says somewhere that no one ever writes the real story of their life.
The real story of a life is the story of its humiliations.
If I wrote that story now–
radioactive to the end of time–
people, I swear, your eyes would fall out, you couldn’t peel
the gloves fast enough
from your hands scorched by the firestorms of that shame.
Your poor hands. Your poor eyes
to see me weeping in my room
or boring the tall blonde to death.
Once I accused the innocent.
Once I bowed and prayed to the guilty.
I still wince at what I once said to the devastated widow.
And one October afternoon, under a locust tree
whose blackened pods were falling and making
illuminating patterns on the pathway,
I was seized by joy,
and someone saw me there,
and that was the worst of all,
lacerating and unforgettable.


I don’t know what I can add to that, except to say that although my book isn’t quite a memoir, I definitely had the experience of excavating my, and others’, humiliations in the writing process.  It’s humbling.  I loved Seshadri’s poetry title Wild Kingdom because it doesn’t just refer to the nature around us (he draws from his experiences as a commercial fisherman), but also references the nature within us that is so wild, and ruthless, and raw, at least until we cover it up with our ideas of decorum. 

And I think that’s why I don’t scold my kitty very hard at all for his uncivilised ways.  Even as I grumble, I’m a little bit proud of him and his barbaric nature because — although it’s often inconvenient for me — it reminds me not to abandon my own inner wildcat.

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