brown tabby cat sitting on brown wooden stool
Photo by Anderson Martins on

Quarantined kids escape briefly, screeching loud into empty streets

their thin bodies desperate for release and water sprayed

high into quiet air

I grew my nails because I am not touched, I do not arouse desire

there is no purpose in their being short or useful

for love I had once, in the magnolia dimness of loveliness.

Racketed sound is a mockery, a reminder of how things used to be

when you believed in love and it slipped through your hands

like porcupine quills that have no sharp

distracting yourself with empty boxes and things unpacked

for you belong not here nor there, nor any place

always the need to pack up and relocate, find what

has never sought finding in great wild.

You may judge if you wish

I did a good thing, though you will say it was wrong

I saw nature today at its most timorous and yet bold

I let it go, I let it go.

Many months I planned the capture of her off spring

as she ate from my plates, watching side-ways with distrusting gaze

I am after all, someone prone to superstition and wonder

she arrived a month after the death of my cat

it seemed in her resemblance, it was his return

then she is pregnant and I believe I can have

a house full of life again.

But this heart cannot take one more attempt at loving

this body though young, remembers the torment of losing

those mercies in the night and belief things last eternal

when nothing but the certainty of natures hammer sounds

and nature is not a kindly thing

though perhaps in her supposed cruelty, she is pure

whilst we save cats and neuter so that they may

grow fat and listless without purpose, swatting flies for entertainment

our city nearly drained of ferals and life, and hope, it occurred to me

I didn’t want her caught and diminished by

our belief we know what is right for

creatures of the wild.

I would say, especially as a virus seeks to diminish our population

a mass of humanity grown out of control

this is natures doing, this is the deliberate

consequence of our unprecedented surge to exist

maybe she will forgive

if she does not, is that even wrong?

We place our beliefs as if they are more

than tin soldiers and waxen effigies

as proofs of some superior knowledge

all against the tilled marrow of this earth

long outlasting us, fecund dirt and soil

from which life springs eternal and unfettered

laughing at our arrogance with our

purple capes of chastity and piety

golden crosses forged from raped stone

rules to contradict and suppress the powerless.

She was caught in this cold cage and I saw

her yellow eyes find mine

they say if you stare too long into the eyes of

a wild creature they will perceive a threat

better to bow your head in prayer and submit

they say too much that is tired and old

she looked at me and with the beseechmentof her kind and mine

she asked to be wild

not neutered for ‘her own good’

because she will develop cancer and her kittens

will die time and again to the coral snake and all

other natural things.

She wanted her chance at freedom

she would take them away now, her kittens whom I watched from

my isolation and my hurt, brightening my day

a salve of selfish joy, what is it that saves

the sanctity of the unsaved?

Her shoulders were down, almost crushed, I knew

to release was the greater good

as the wild rose is always more beautiful

on the wild rose tree and not in a vase

in a sterile room to bloom and wilt and lose

richer, than the bland salt-less life I lead

tame without children, without those who

call me when they promise to love and obey.

Our human folly I saw as glaringly

as those kittens in a line, following their mother

through high grass away

my heart stung, same as when my own cat

breathed his last and we said it was a mercy

to euthanize him in his pain

but what of his freedom?

Did he go from that place of needles and

kitty grooming and dental hygiene for pets

to something as noble as her green field?

I saw roses die when I was very young

even as I dried them and tried to keep their wholeness

they crumbled because life is bidden by our false extension

but the visceral and the sad and the sorrowful and the tragic

and quite often

something more achingly beautiful than we

with all our art and books and music

could ever be.

I didn’t want to let her go, I wanted to control

insert myself into the story

trap her kittens to tame them

save them from a less noble fate

and yet who am I?

Am I a worthy example?

with my loss of love, my lack of family?

who was I to prescribe my way? To these

who had every right to live their way?

You see, I have long known I am not

their superior, they are not inferior to me

I am neither their master nor willing to decide

their fate when they have a greater sense of life

real life, than I, in my artifice, ever will

I do not eat flesh for this reason, it is to me

a cannibalism in the way we farm and produce

milk and animal products neatly spit out

without thought to their suffering, or the

terrible way they know what will happen.

We are unnatural in our artificial world

we are too aware of things, our intelligence

can be as much a curse.

Many days I wake and have such a pain inside

me, I know only comes from the unbearable

awareness and I wish I were as simple and as

loving as those felines in my garden or that

I had not listened to sensibility as a young girl

and like this cat, who so resembles mine, who is dead

believed like the earth, after rain, we should

grow wild and free


Yet we have in a way, and with our vast numbers

disease and famine, virus and pest try to

even the score

it is as natural as it comes to get a virus and die

but we are not able to accept that, we believe we

should conquer this God given earth, spreading ourselves out

until we are no different to bacteria or roaches.

I pity us, I pity what we know and do not know

in some ways we are the same as this mother

trying to save her kittens because of an impulse

in her case the purity of instinct

in ours we have choices and often they lead to greed

and an insatiable desire for more.

I choose

seeing her resigned, defeated self

I release the cage, it springs back, she rushes out

it feels so right to see her dart across the field, unencumbered

I know she will take them far away now

I know I will lose them

I also know I never possessed them

and that it is right this way

for pets are not ours to ‘own’ or be master of, they are the chained

learned mules and horses who have been broken

maybe they do not know it and are happy

but what of those who are still wild?

Who am I to take, to decide? To think I know best?

I have read all the books about feral cat population

show cruel it is for nature to flourish unchecked

how disease runs rampant and sickness abounds

and I think of us and our wish to have choices

even as the same thing happens and we perish

to the hands of disease and the will of something more powerful

than our tinker toys and our belief we know all.

As much as she punishes me for my error

walking away, leaving nothing but footprints

in dry sand on my emptied deck

I feel I have listened to

something deeper than talk radio or

my biology books, I have instead

heard the call of the wild and it told me

do not always think you can disturb

this felted land with your superior knowledge

you should only know, you do not know


How am I an example with my perpetuate grief

my unfulfillment, unhappy childhood, empty rooms.

All the awareness we have can be a curse

better to be wild, not to expect love or loyalty

those are human constraints, doomed often to failure

better to be without rule, not to live for glory or purpose beyond

the simplicity of instinctmy instinct told me to open the cage

it has always sought to protect rather than capture

even if she dies out there, she dies intact

not a creature molded by us, into something hybrid and wrong.

I have nothing in my arms now, as I had

nothing in my arms then

and I don’t cut my nails because there is no-one to love

or hold me when I need to be held

because humans promise and break those promises like

egg shells cast on skillets

because you told me you loved me always and

soon you couldn’t even lift a finger or try

to write a line in love, for your bitterness soured your

entire soul and I had a heart filled

but with no way to empty it.

I no longer want to be let down and told

I don’t write because there’s nothing to say

and I don’t want a relationship based on writing

because all those who were separated in the past

wrote letters to each other many, many times

no matter their distance.

It is rather, our modern impatience that says

I want it all now, I want it all or none

then you shall have none, as I shall have none

and all those wasted years were a grave mistake

just as many things I have done are.

I am not making another mistake

I will not keep her behind bars

where I have been waiting for you to do right by me

where I have been expecting to be treated right

when most people are anything but … merciful

it is our human world and I wish I were

instead that mother or a deer unbound

it is sad that we die of the virus

it is more sad, that we live as we do

things happen as lessons to teach us

will we listen? Or will we repeat

and repeat and repeat?

I release her back

into the mercy of the wild

where she looks once

over her shoulder and then

quick as lightning

she is gone.

Written in memory of the cat who loved me loyally more than any person ever has and whom I loved very much and brought with me to this country so long ago.

Halo 2001-2019. RIP.

35 Replies to “Mercy for the wild”

  1. I got goosebumps reading this. Doing what you know is the right thing out of love doesn’t make it any less painful. Hugs to you my friend!

  2. I’ve never lived with an “indoor cat”, but for a few brief years of city apartment on a busy street. Until a move to a country farm house. From then on, the doors opened. If they stayed, came back in it was their choice, also when some did not. Mothers taught kittens to hunt despite plentiful human supplied food. It is true that for those who truly love cats, much of the reason is knowing the wild in their eyes, windows to their wild souls, and reminders that once, ages ago, we too were wild.

  3. This was a tour de force – all so familiar, these arguments for and against; in the end I would probably choose the same but I don’t trust myself not to have a change of heart (which is a more accurate word to choose than ‘mind’)…

  4. I love cats. Always have. Good to see someone else who is a cat lover. Do you have many? I would love to have a lot but alas I am allergic so the most I can do is two without carpet! I hope you are keeping well my friend

  5. It is NOT a terrible omission I think humans can be a little disappointing. I meant to ask you if you are on Facebook? I know it’s an awful place but if you were I should love to add you to my close friend list xo If not that’s okay and raises you in my estimate but either way you are up there, cats and all! xo

  6. Thank you sweetheart. Did you see the post I did on WP also about your wonderful magazine? I did one on IG. One on FB. And one here. xo Always support you and your wonderful abilities. I am so proud of you. I really am.

  7. That’s funny because I would completely imagine you to have pets – do you have dogs? I just see you as someone who would have animals in your life. Wow that sounds strange but you know what I mean. I think it is because you have such a good heart

  8. I have lived with dogs – my Dad always had a dog, and I’ve had up to seven cats at one time. Since I moved here to take care of Dad and his dog, I’ve lost the cat (Munchie) I brought with me (She was 19 year old) and the shelter cat (Blackjack) I adopted when she died (He had an aggressive cancer.), and Hector, Dad’s dog, managed to outlive him by less than a year. At this point I need to sell this house (just too big for one person) with it’s Cat-heaven garden. I couldn’t bear to keep a cat in from that, and then move somewhere the cat cold not go out. Trying to change an indoor-outdoor cat into an indoor only cat usually results in a miserable cat and human. Anyway, I do meet some very nice dogs on my walks, and their humans who appreciate when someone is not afraid of an enthusiastic dog.

  9. See! I was right! You had seven (the holy number) of cats! That is a person who likes cats and should have cats again! Wow 19 is old for a dog to live. Blackjack is a cool name. I’m sorry she had cancer that is heartbreaking. I know that pain. I’m so glad you got shelter pets too. I understand about selling the house, my dad’s house is quite big and I have told him he should downsize but he is happy there so … some people like and need more space. I myself don’t need so much. But maybe you will not move somewhere a cat could not go out? I know what you mean though. Better to move and then decide. I would not wish to keep a cat indoors all the time at all but many vets recommend it. I would say a shorter but real life is preferable to a long life looking out of glass.

  10. Munchie (short for The Munchkin) was the runt of a feral litter of kittens (fate of the mom unknown) and was adopted into a roommate’s cat tribe (4). Her brother litter mate turned out to have feline hemophilia, which, as in the human version is carried in the female line, so she was spade as soon as possible. There were times we thought she should have been named Xena. She was fearless and once took of a neighboring Himalayan that had beat up one of her cat family. She did draw the line at taking on bears.

    The seven cats were three generations, but that’s another whole situation, almost another lifetime. Maybe I should write some cat stories of them, like the one who had a possum for a friend.

  11. How old were they? I have four in my garden but they are already ten weeks old they let me feed them but not near them I was wondering if it was even worth trying to tame them now? Oh no that is so sad about the hemophilia. I think female cats have to be very fierce because of how small they are in compare and what they endure. I really could have a house full of cats QUITE easily! I hope one day you will. So seven cats were three generations of the same cat? Any photos of them? WOW! You should! Do it! CS Lewis eat your heart out!

  12. Munchie and her brother were pretty young, but eating solid food, so probably at least 6 or 8 weeks. I don’t remember how many were in the litter when found. Feline social groups in the wild (or, feral) tend to be multi-generational matriarchies with the males marginal or, as with lions, primarily defenders against other predators. Among lions, the females do most of the hunting. The seven began with one pair who had three kittens. Then the female of those three had three, one of which didn’t survive. I have one very bad photo of two of them somewhere.

  13. I used to have this ‘fantasy’ of finding kittens inn the wild and bringing them up but sometimes the reality doesn’t work quite the same but at least I have the joy of watching them.

  14. I’m hopeful. I like to feed them and watch them it really makes me happy. I’m so glad you saved so many in your life. I do hope you can have another chapter of that. I always like cat-people it’s a thing I have.

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