Friday, May 19, 2017

The Poet: Rod McKuen, "A Cat Named Sloopy"


"A Cat Named Sloopy"

"For awhile
the only earth that Sloopy knew
  was in her sandbox.
Two rooms were her domain.
Every night she'd sit in the window
among the avocado plants
waiting for me to come home,
       my arms full of canned liver and love.
We'd talk into the night then,
contented,
 but missing something.
She the earth she never knew,
me the hills I ran
  while growing bent.
Sloopy should have been a cowboy's cat,
with prairies to run,
not linoleum,
and real-live catnip mice,
no one to depend on but herself.

I never told her,
but in my mind
I was a midnight cowboy even then.
Riding my imaginary horse
 down Forty-second street,
 going off with strangers
 to live an hour-long cowboy's life.
   But always coming home to Sloopy,
     who loved me best.
   For a dozen summers
 we lived against the world.
An island on an island.
She'd comfort me with purring,
I'd fatten her with smiles.
We grew rich on trust,
         needing not the beach or butterflies.
I had a friend named Ben
Who painted buildings like Roualt men.
  He went away.
My laughter tired Lillian
after a time,
   she found a man who only smiled.
    But Sloopy stayed and stayed.

Winter,
       Nineteen fifty-nine,    
Old men walk their dogs.
Some are walked so often
that their feet leave
little pink tracks
in the soft snow.

Women, fur on fur,
elegant and easy,
only slightly pure,
hailing cabs to take them
  round the block and back.
Who is not a love seeker
when December comes?
Even children pray to Santa Claus.
I had my own love safe at home,
and yet I stayed out all one night,
 the next day too.

They must have thought me crazy
    screaming SLOOPY!
 SLOOPY!
as the snow came falling
down around me.

I was a madman
to have stayed away
 one minute more
  than the appointed hour.
I'd like to think a golden cowboy
snatched her from the window sill,
 and safely saddlebagged
she rode to Arizona.
She's stalking lizards
in the cactus now perhaps,
  bitter, but free.
 I'm bitter too,
and not a free man anymore.

  But once upon a time,
In New York's jungle in a tree,     
before I went into the world
in search of other kinds of love,
nobody owned me but a cat named Sloopy.
   Looking back,
perhaps she's been
the only human thing
that ever gave back love to me.” 
                                                                                                
- Rod McKuen

Hat tip to Annette Garcia for this material!    

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