Ode to the Cat
The animals were imperfect,
unfortunate in their heads.
Little by little they
put themselves together,
making themselves a landscape,
acquiring spots, grace, flight.
only the cat
appeared complete and proud:
he was born completely finished,
walking alone and knowing what he wanted.
Man wants to be fish or fowl,
the snake would like to have wings
the dog is a disoriented lion,
the engineer would like to be a poet,
the fly studies to be a swift,
the poet tries to imitate the fly,
but the cat
only wants to be a cat
and any cat is a cat
from his whiskers to his tail,
from his hopeful vision of a rat
to the real thing,
from the night to his golden eyes.
There is no unity
the moon and the flower
do not have such context:
he is just one thing
like the sun or the topaz,
and the elastic line of his contours
is firm and subtle like
the line of a ship’s prow.
His yellow eyes
have just one
to coin the gold of night time.
emperor without a sphere of influence
conqueror without a country,
smallest living-room tiger, nuptial
sultan of the sky,
of the erotic roof-tiles,
the wind of love
in the storm
when you pass
four delicate feet
on the ground,
all that is terrestrial,
is too unclean
for the immaculate foot of the cat.
Oh independent wild beast
of the house
vestige of the night,
very deep cat,
surely there is no
in your manner,
perhaps you are not a mystery,
everyone knows of you
and you belong
to the least mysterious inhabitant,
perhaps everyone believes it,
everyone believes himself the owner,
of a cat,
of his cat.
I do not subscribe.
I do not know the cat.
I know it all, life and its archipelago,
the sea and the incalculable city,
the gynaecium and its frenzies,
the plus and the minus of mathematics,
the volcanic frauds of the world,
the unreal shell of the crocodile,
the unknown kindness of the fireman,
the blue atavism of the priest,
but I cannot decipher a cat.
My reason slips on his indifference,
his eyes have golden numbers.
Born: 12 July 1904, Parral, Chile
Died: 23 September 1973, Santiago, Chile
Neruda was a poet-diplomat and politician who became known as a poet at aged 13. He wrote in various styles including surrealist, and historical political.