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Via Negativa

May 29, 2013

by J. Stephen Rhodes


You can’t write a poem about cats,
some professor said some time ago,
so this is not about them and how
they might run this old city that slopes
down to the Cote d’Azur and draws
in the sea. And, why should anyone bother
to describe the water either, blue beyond
blue, what Plato would have called the color’s
essence. So, this is not about how
each yard in the Cite Medieval has
at least two chats—landed gentry—
black, white or gray typically
but also the occasional yellow
or brown, though these latter figure more
in alleys, les chats ordinaires,
sleeping with legs or tails draped over walls
built during the time of Francis the First,
Charles of Anjou, or Julius Caesar.

You can’t write about them, even though
they’ve been here since the Phoenicians,
maybe, and if that’s the case they might
have been chasing rats onto triremes
from Egypt itself, mother of all
their unmentionable kind, perhaps.

Nor should you describe how they stroll
on the Avenue du General De Gaulle
past Jeff de Brugges and other fine stores,
tails erect, on the lookout for good deals
like everyone else. In windows, on stoops,
you can’t mention their toilettes or their naps,
or the occasional rendez-vous, either
courteous or, it must be said, sometimes rude.

All this having not been said, as they
are beneath some people’s notice, one might not
want to add that we, being human,
are beneath theirs, as well, and thus stare
with the same perplexity some of us share.

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J. Stephen Rhodes is a Presbyterian minister and theological educator. His poems have appeared in Shenandoah, Windhover, and Tar River Poetry, among others. He is the author of a collection of poems, The Time I Didn’t Know What to Do Next (Wind Publications). Among the mammals he has recently seen at or about his feeders (supposedly for birds) are squirrels, chipmunks, a rabbit, a shrew, deer, and two quite rotund raccoons.

  1. May 29, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Hi Stephen,
    This is not a comment about your fabulous poem, how it brought me happiness today reading it or how I find an affinity with your subject matter (being about cats), or thought you might have read my cat poem in this collection.
    It’s just a comment to say hi and keep on writing

  1. May 31, 2013 at 11:09 am
  2. May 31, 2013 at 8:22 pm
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