December 2023

Four Cat Poems

Michael Bettencourt | Scene4 Magazine

Michael Bettencourt

Seamus Held

Bandida feeds on the back deck

for herself and five

dubbed for the cowl of black fur

around the feline green of her eyes,

abandoned scarred by street edges

but safe on our back deck scarfing down

for herself and five.


One, Seamus, we will take in

pied white and gray

at this moment blue-blind-eyed and mewling

a fragile bluster of fur and need

Bandida's teat world enough.


The bright brute mammal heat of Seamus held

against our shirts






With Seamus on the Backdeck

The morning ritual has found its weight

Since our minds and hearts reluctantly gave in

To returning from Ireland to these benighted states.


Me booked with Heaney's poetry, scribing my letters

In a Trinity College gift shop journal

Of the Long Room bookstuffed to its vaulted rafters,


Seamus – stretchbodied openbellied mewling –

Dazzled by the zigging flies and hunter-spurred

By their zagging attacks, their aerial dueling.


We share this moment full of sentience and flair,

Snapping at the allusive, thrilled by the almost-caught,

Refreshed by the pause of a middle-distance stare.


The difference this:


Seamus does not know about endings

While I, scything through Heaney's stanzas,

Pile up endings by the sheaf-full, tight-bound by twinings


Of promise, pain, penance and sometimes-peace,

All while Seamus snaps, leaps, pirouettes and pounces,

Licks a nub of fur into place, lounges pleased.


Two Seamuses did anchor at our backdeck harbor.

I am glad for the company of each.

One keeps me to port, the other to starboard,


While I make an inroad on the long (but shortening) road ahead.




"Welcome to our home, where cat hair is both a fashion statement and a condiment."


In an article about space junk, the infographic

Showed how materials in orbit have progressed

From a dusting of satellites in orderly calisthenics

To a shaken snowglobe of speeding metal and mess.


Welcome to our home, where four cats' hair

Orbits in mist and lands on every surface,

Despite our rigorous culling of coach and chair

And kitchen and bed and bathroom – endless surplus —


But we would not have it any way else aligned,

A small cost to pay for their palliative presence,

And for the chance given us by our felines

To care for, give comfort to, things not-us,


The chance that counters our despot nature,

The hair shirt that itches us to love each creature.



Cleansing the Litter

Four stations for the bowels of our Fiona,

Our Cordelia, our Banquo, our Seamus –

Daily visitants (sometimes twicely) leaving us

Their gift of intestinal incense extremis.


I sift and top off every morning, my plastic bag

A censer of ammonia and turd, wheat chaff and clay,

While their napping guts and cloistered bladders

Prep upcoming orisons for heavenward delivery.


Part of the everyday round in our six-team harness.

We contract shelter for their indoored condition,

Subclaused with food and medicine, in exchange

For their purring closeness, their bunting affection.


By market logic this does not make sense,

Spending out money (much) to renew

Four mammals that do not return a return

On investment, that do not produce or accrue.


But there is logic, and then there is redemption –

And the latter is what leads us to our oversight –

Being called to care for something other than self

Cleanses our own litter, makes us obligate,


Steady, fast, forgiving: better. Do better. Love better.

Even when they hairball up on the carpet,

Demand 2 a.m. food, do the 4 a.m. steeplechase,

Launch the 6 a.m. pounce because they're up, so up you get.


They liven us – leaven us – lighten us – make us laugh –

A fair trade for what we do on their behalf.


And while we six age together, we do not age the same.

They will use the litter until they don't, and that is that.

We will clean for four, then three, then two, then one,

As our time together becomes more abbreviate.


And we will honor each of them with the proper farewells –

Their absentia will keep making us do better, love better, until

We only have ourselves facing ourselves: lifelong have we been,

Lifelong we will continue. Our loving them has prepared us well.


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Michael Bettencourt is an essayist and a playwright.
He writes a monthly column and is
a Senior Writer and columnist for Scene4.
Continued thanks to his "prime mate"
and wife, Marķa-Beatriz.
For more of his columns, articles, and media,
check the Archives.

©2023 Michael Bettencourt
©2023 Publication Scene4 Magazine




and creates


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