The Beautiful Devil

Charles Bukowski “On Cats” (2015, Canongate)

I don’t love cats – have never loved them. They are lazy and mean. Still, I am strangely attracted to them. I wonder if there is any other creature out there that is so full of itself, so untroubled and so unapologetic about its needs and demands. Cats are widely found and have been gloriously portrayed in literature. Just a few days ago (December 7), Lynne Truss of the Guardian published a post called “Top 10 Cats in Literature” – a list that includes Lewis Carroll’s unforgettable Cheshire Cat from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and T.S. Eliot’s criminal mastermind Macavity from his  Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939). When it comes to more recent depictions, I cannot stop thinking of the surreal Goma and Mimi and Toro and others in the bestselling Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami and the feral bands in old neighborhoods of Delhi in The Hundred Names of Darkness duology by Indian writer Nilanjana Roy.

Charles Bukowski “On Cats” (2015, Ecco)

Anyway, it turns out that Henry Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) – the great laureate of American lowlife, writer of dirty realism – was also a great lover of these little felines. For him, “there was something majestic and elemental about cats.” He considered them to be sentient beings, “whose searing gaze could penetrate deep into our being.” Cats could see into us; they were on to something. Cats, ruthless and endearing, were beautiful devils, representative of “the strong forces of life that won’t let go.” Supposedly, they were Bukowski’s “most profound teachers.” A selection of his writings on cats was published last year in America by Ecco and in Britain by Canongate.

Read a few lines:

a cat is a cat is a cat is a cat

she’s whistling and clapping
for the cats
at 2 a.m.
as I sit here
with my wine and my
Beethoven.

 

“they’re just prowling,” I
tell her…

 

Beethoven rattles his bones
in majesty.

 

“…Beethoven rattles his bones in majesty…”

 

and those damn cats
don’t even care
about
any of that.

 

and
if they did
I wouldn’t like them
at
all:

 

things begin to lose their
natural value
when they near
human
endeavor.

 

nothing against
Beethoven:

 

he did fine
for what he
was

 

but I wouldn’t want
him
on my rug
with one leg
over his head
while
he was
licking
his balls.

—-

 

Image Credit:

Featured: Pixabay (edited)

 


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