Practical Cat poems and a game of Blokus

Tonight Moomin and I read poems. I pulled out some books we haven’t looked at in a long time. One is an old, slightly dusty hardback from 1963 called “The Birds and the Beasts Were There“, with very nice woodcuts. In the cat chapter, we read:

Cat” by Eleanor Farjeon (Scat, / cat! / That’s / that!)
“Cat and the Weather” by May Swenson (Cat takes a look at the weather: /snow; / puts a paw on the sill; / his perch is piled, is a pillow.)
“That Cat” by Ben King
“The Kitten” by Ogden Nash
“Diamond Cut Diamond”, a concrete poem by Ewart Milne
The Kitten and the Falling Leaves” by William Wordsworth (I note the book left out the first two lines, for the better)
Poem” by William Carlos Williams (Moomin commented the words went down like cat paws) A lovely poem. If only I had not sat through 800 poetry readings of people trying to be WCW, a jillion years too late. I kept that comment to myself, cynical mom should not ruin the poem! He can do that himself when he’s 15 or so!
We skipped “Death of the Cat” as too depressing and “My Cat Jeoffrey” saving it for next time because it’s long
Macavity: The Mystery Cat” by T.S. Eliot
“Cat on Couch” by Barbara Howes (My cat, washing her tail’s tip, is a whorl/ of white shell, / As perfect as a fan / in full half-moon…)

I thought of the Pangurban poem by the anonymous Irish monk, but didn’t get up to find it. Here it is for you in two translations: the one translated by Robin Flower I remember hearing originally, and another that doesn’t identify the translator. Flower’s translation is light years better! What will Moomin make of the two translations?

Then, my old copy of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats finally got some use. We read the Jellicle Cats poem. I left this book by his bed. He will likely have read it all before I wake up tomorrow. How could I have forgotten this book – it is just right for him and his age, and the illustrations by Edward Gorey are perfect.

Then I realized Moomin didn’t remember A.A. Milne at all. We read “Three Little Foxes” and “Missing” (the one about the mouse with the woffley nose) as they were my favorites. His comment on “Rice Pudding” was pretty great: “Oh my god! Why are they so stupid! OBVIOUSLY Mary Jane does NOT LIKE rice pudding!”

Then it was bedtime! Oh wait! It was waaaay past bedtime!

You know what, I only found the Howes poem online in one place that looked uncertain. I’m going to post it, and hope she doesn’t mind from beyond the grave. Moomin liked it very much. I do too but could do without the word “visage” and think that “pirouette” is a bit ham handed. Sorry Barbara! (Argh, as you would expect from the slight pretentiousness and preciousness combined, she was a crony of D.G. We will try not to hold that against her either.) Here’s the poem, and a link to a book of Howes’ Collected Poems.

Cat on Couch
My cat, washing her tail’s tip, is a whorl
Of white shell,
As perfect as a fan
In full half-moon . . . Next moment she’s a hare:
The muzzle twitches, blurs, goes dumb, and one
Tall ear dips, falters forward . . . Then,
Cross as switches, she’s a great horned owl;
Two leafy tricornered ears reverse, a frown
Darkens her chalky visage, big eyes round
And round and stare down midnight.
There sits my cat
Mysterious as gauze, – now somnolent,
Now jocose, quicksilver from a dropped
Thermometer. When poised
Below the sketched ballet-
Dancers who pirouette upon the wall,
Calmly she lifts the slim
Boom of her leg, what will
The prima ballerina next
Perform? – Grace held in readiness
She meditates, a vision of repose.
– Barbara Howes

Earlier, Moomin and I played Blokus Trigon, two colors each, playing both our turns at once. He lost by only 7 points. There was some point in the game where I said, “I can’t believe I’m going to do this to my own child, my flesh and blood, but I’m blocking in your blues….” and he said, “I can believe it! It’s because you’re fierce and competitive!” I was gobsmacked. “Yes… I am… I hope that’s okay… I’m ruthless…” “I know, I don’t mind, I think I’m doing pretty well.” We discussed the strategic abilities of the kids in the game club at his old school. Only Moomin and one other kid could almost beat me. When he does beat me, he’ll know it wasn’t because I let him win. I look forward to that glorious day. Only 8 years old and he gives me a run for my money at Blokus! Do you think it’s terrible that I don’t let him win? Perhaps next time we could decide on a suitable handicap and start the game that way. Then he would have a chance to win, but would know it was still fair, and he can choose to play and try to beat me without the advantage.

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