- by 李商隱 Lǐ Shāngyǐn (812-858)
Boundless the leaves roused by spring,
Countless the twigs which tremble in the dawn.
Whether the willow can love or not,
Never a time when it does not dance.
Blown fluff hides white butterflies,
Drooping bands disclose the yellow oriole.
The beauty which shakes a kingdom must reach through all the body:
Who comes only to view the willow's eyebrows?
This is Willow's official first birthday photo. No, we don't usually dress our pets in clothes. Last Friday I put flea medicine between the shoulder blades of both dogs and each inside cat and Willow is so limber that she could twist her head enough to lick at the poison. I remembered a little t-shirt that I bought decades ago for Cirrus -- my muse of a white cat who was long with me and has been gone even longer still -- when she was old and cold and did indeed wear dog sweaters in her final years. Surprisingly, I found it after rummaging through only one drawer and immediately put it over Willow's head and breathed a sigh before attempting to place her front paws through the arm holes, expecting a struggle. But rather than struggle, she snuggled into it and seemed appreciative of the barrier it afforded between the oily junk on her back and her seeking tongue. I haven't taken it off of her because she seems to like the extra layer. She is a very long, very thin cat and I think she is feeling the chill of autumn more than the other animals (although big fat Shiva settled in front of the gas stove as soon as I relit the pilot light last week, so even she feels the change of seasons).
On the back of the t-shirt are printed the words Precious Possession. The description couldn't be further from the truth. If anything, I am her possession and not the other way around. Sunday morning Mike was up earlier than I and when he came into the bedroom to gently waken me he found Willow there on the pillow next to me. He remarked what a close bond she and I share. Yes, so close it hurts, knowing the cruel separation to come years from now, the separation that nearly broke me when Cirrus and later Bleecker, my two favorite cats, died.
Willow deserves a poem for her first birthday, but I just don't have one in me right now. So I read numerous poems about cats in preparation of this post. None suited Willow in the slightest. I decided to seek poems written about willows, and came upon this one that truly does suit her. The site where I read it (click) contains an esoteric feature titled "Allusions to Classical Chinese Poetry in Pink Floyd," noting that the original Willow poem ". . . has an element of sensuality and playfulness that come through rather vividly in translation. The poet is praising in a subtle but quite unmistakeable way the physical charms of the woman who is the subject of the poem." That description also seems a fitting portrayal of my cat, Willow. And, ironically, the feature refers to the Pink Floyd lyrics to "Cirrus Minor," and their reference to willows.
I did write two poems about my cat, Cirrus, one of them published in Cats Magazine. I will post them at a later date. As I said, she was my muse and I think Willow could be one too if I tap into the flow.