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Cat Island

Thom Gunn

Cats met us at

the landing-place

reclining in the sun

to check us in

with a momentary glance,


of a grassy island.

(Attila’s Throne,

the Devil’s Bridge,

and “the best Byzantine

church in the world”,

long saints admonitory

on kiln-like inner walls.)

And lunch in a shady court

where cats now

systematically worked

the restaurant, table

by table, gazing into eyes

pleading “I’m hungry

and I’m cute”, reaching

front paws up to knees

and always getting

before zeroing in

on the next table, same

routine, same result.


Sensible bourgeois

wild-cats working

with the furred impudence

of those who don’t pretend

to be other than whores,

they give you not

the semblance of love

but simply

a look at their beauty

in return for food.

Models, not escorts.

They lack, too,

the prostitute’s self-pity,

being beyond shame.

And we lack

what they have.


From Magma No. 11 (Winter 1997)