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The Black Cat - a Poe'm

John is a long-time poet, short fiction, and article writer. He loves story-telling and also has a Certificate in Permaculture Design.

The Black Cat

Once during a storm so livid, while I cowered, scared and timid,

Bent over a dusty and tattered journal written many years before -

While I started, nearly jumping, suddenly there was a thumping,

As of someone roughly knocking, knocking on my cottage door -

"Not a visitor," I sighed, "knocking on my cottage door -

In a storm I so deplore?"


Oh, distinctly I recall it was in the midst of Fall;

And each separate flash of lightning slashed a swathe across the floor.

Waiting eagerly tomorrow; - seeking solace for my sorrow

From the book I tried to borrow - borrow comfort from the storm -

From the savage violent monster from the heavens called "a storm" -

That I fear forevermore.


And the heavy rainfall beating on each of the small windows

Scared me - terrified me as I'd never been before;

So to stop my heart from pounding, I stood there just expounding,

"It's some visitor seeking entrance at my cottage door -

Just some visitor seeking entrance at my cottage door; -

Only this and nothing more."


In time I grew much bolder; laying down my ancient folder,

"May I help you, Sir or Madam? I will make you wait no more.

But the storm had made me jumpy, and then I heard you thumping,

Such unexpected thumping, thumping at my cottage door,

I was scared of what was out there" - here I opened wide the door; -

Darkness there and nothing more.


Deep into the darkness peering, standing silent, wondering, fearing,

Doubting, questioning the thumping sound I thought I heard;

But the storm it didn't waiver, and the silence was no saviour,

And the only sound I heard was the thunder of the storm,

The lightning and the thunder of the dark and violent storm; -

Solely this and nothing more.


Back into my cottage turning, something deep inside me yearning,

Once again I heard the thumping somewhat louder than before.

"This time it's at the window, pounding on my bedroom window;

Let me see then what is out there and this mystery explore; -

It's the wind and nothing more!"


Open here I thrust the window when a mournful meowing followed,

In there pounced a stately feline seeming from the witch's lore;

Without haste it made its entrance; determined, not by chance;

But, it jumped upon my armchair sitting by my bedroom door -

Like a god that must be worshipped on the chair next to my door -

Sitting, staring, and nothing more.


As it's amber eyes surveyed me it made me feel uneasy,

By the grave and stern expression on its whiskered face it wore,

"You are so dark and haunting," I said, "I find your presence daunting,

Witchcraft surely brings you thumping upon my cottage door -

Tell me why you chose my remote and lonely cottage door?'

Quoth the black cat, "To escape the storm."


I marvelled at the discourse with this sleek black cat, of course,

Though its answer was expected - seeking shelter from the storm;

But I cannot help believing of some higher power conceiving

That this cat as black as darkness should seek solace at my door -

And rest proudly upon the armchair sitting by my bedroom door,

Just escaping the downpour.


Now this cat has never left me, though I tried to set it free

When the wind and rain abated from the fierce and violent storm;

And his eyes they are all-seeing like a wise and holy being,

As the lamp-light throws his towering shadow wide across the floor;

And I kneel and bow in awe at that shadow on the floor

Cats shall rule - forevermore!


Off the Shelf

You probably didn't expect that this was another article/poem in my Off the Shelf series, but hey, I am full of surprises. This one is a little different because in this instance I chose the title of a short story from a collection by Edgar Allan Poe called Tales of Suspense. (It also seems to appear under the name Terrifying Tales on Amazon). The Black Cat is a very dark and violent tale that I found rather unpleasant if I am truthful, but then, if you read Poe's stories you need to be prepared for that eventuality.

Anyway, when contemplating how to construct the poem and try to work out a storyline I had the idea of "Why not use one of Poe's own poems as a guideline?' And what better poem to choose than the iconic The Raven? So, as you will have already noticed this poem has a similar style and structure. I did make it about five stanzas shorter, however.

Tales of Suspense is overall a very satisfying read for Poe fans and contains such classic short stories as The Pit and the Pendulum, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Oblong Box, The Purloined Letter, and more.

I had read these stories before but most of the others in the book, including The Black Cat were new to me.

Myths Surrounding Black Cats

  • In Ancient Egypt, black cats were worshipped, just like their more colourful counterparts. The Ancient Egyptian god of cats, was called Bastet, and was often portrayed as a woman with the head of a black cat, so our black felines weren't feared and had nothing to fear themselves.
  • In Celtic mythology, however, a legend existed about a creature called the Cat Sìth which was said to resemble a large black cat with a white spot on its chest. Legend has it that the Cat Sìth could steal a person’s soul by passing over a corpse before the burial, and before the gods could claim it, Therefore, watches were organized to keep these mythical creature away from the corpses.
  • In Europe during the Middle Ages, black cats were often associated with witches. One popular tale is said to have taken place in 1560s Lincolnshire, England. On a moonless night, a father and son were travelling when a black cat crossed their path. They pelted the cat with rocks until it fled into the home of a woman who was being accused of being a witch. The next day, the father and son saw the woman who lived in the house. She was limping and bruised, so they assumed witches could turn into black cats at night to roam around unobserved. This belief spread to the USA with the first settlers and was held firmly during the Salem witch trials.

Even today many people think black cats bring bad luck. Around Halloween for example, black cats are portrayed as often accompanied by witches.

Luckily, there are some places in the world where black cats are considered good luck. In Scotland for example, a strange black cat arriving at your home is believed to bring prosperity. In the rest of Britain, a black cat crossing your path is considered good luck. The same goes for Japan.

My cats Nike and Chairman Meow (the black one.)

My cats Nike and Chairman Meow (the black one.)

© 2019 John Hansen

Comments

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on September 29, 2019:

Hello Tim. My black cat actually meows to be let in thankfully..Thank you for reading this and I appreciate you saying I honoured Poe with this poem.

Tim Truzy from U.S.A. on September 29, 2019:

Wonderful, John. We have a stray black cat that comes on my porch, but if he starts knocking in a storm, trust me, your poem will be in my mind. (and probably when its not raining, too). Great work; you honored Poe magnificently.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on July 27, 2019:

Thanks for the kind comment Li-Jen. Glad you liked the twist and the info on black cats etc.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on July 27, 2019:

Haha glad I fooled you again Shauna. Thanks for liking and for the children’s book suggestion. I should do that but I am an expert procrastinator.

Li-Jen Hew on July 26, 2019:

Hello Jodah, a nice twist to a storm. Instead of someone intending to rob, it's a black cat instead! I like that you present interesting information behind the poem at the end such as the myths. You showed that despite impressions of black cats, they are normal beings wanting to survive: "To escape the storm". Thanks for sharing.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on July 26, 2019:

You got me again, John! I don't think I've suspected an "Off the Shelf" installation in this entire series! You're the master of surprise, my friend.

I actually love this poem. As I was reading it, I thought it would make a great children's book. With your artistic talent, you could illustrate it as well. Give it some thought.....

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on July 15, 2019:

Thank you Rinita.I am certainly a cat person no doubt about that. Thanks or the kind comment.

Rinita Sen on July 15, 2019:

I love black cats, more so because of the prevailing superstitions around them. Unique story telling with flowing, classy language (Quoth), in this poem. You certainly are a genuine cat person, haha.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on July 13, 2019:

Thank you for reading this Lawrence and for sharing the story of lucky. It is incredible she survived being buried under all that coal for four days so she was very lucky indeed.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on July 13, 2019:

John

Great Poe'm though like the others I didn't cotton on to that.

Black cats were considered lucky where I grew up, and we had one called 'lucky' because she was lucky to be alive when we found her.

She got buried under ten tons of coal that was delivered to our yard.

Dad was a coalmerchant and the coal had been tipped about four days before, so lucky had been buried under it for four days!

How she survived we don't know, but she did, and Black cats are lucky ones, or at least she was!

Missy Smith from Florida on July 06, 2019:

I'm so dense I didn't even catch your title Poe'm at first. lol. Clever. :)

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on July 06, 2019:

Yes, Missy you were correct I was copying the style of Poe's The Raven. Thank you or reading.

Missy Smith from Florida on July 05, 2019:

I knew it! As i was reading I kept saying that this is in the style of Poe. And, of course, the famous Raven came to my mind.

Great job in portraying your own dark tale of mystery. I loved it!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on July 02, 2019:

Thanks for reading this poem Dana. I am happy it brought back some childhood memories for you, even if you can’t remember what happened to the cats.

Dana Tate from LOS ANGELES on July 02, 2019:

This is really cute!

I had two black kittens as a child a boy and girl--actually brother and sister. Its funny but I don't remember what happened to them but the boy was friendly and the girl was mean, she was lucky I fed her, just kidding!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on July 02, 2019:

Thanks for reading this Chris, and for the kind comment. Yes, we are all superstitious of something I guess..black cats being the catalyst for many (pun intended).

Krzysztof Willman from Parlin, New Jersey on July 02, 2019:

Fantastic poem.

I've always been a bit superstitious regarding black cats but obviously that just seems silly when you really think about it.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on June 10, 2019:

Great to see you, Anne, and thanks for that comment. I too love black cats, as if you couldn't tell :) Busy times but all is good with me thanks.

Ann Carr from SW England on June 10, 2019:

I love black cats; they always seem so stately and handsome!

This is a great poem. Sorry I'm so late arriving at it. It has a pace and a mood which reflect the storm and the agitation which comes with it.

Cats rule, eh?!

Hope all's well with you, John.

Ann

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on June 07, 2019:

Thank you so much Ruby for your praise for the poem. I am glad your found the history of black cats to be interesting always. Most of us have at least one superstition that we are wary of.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on June 07, 2019:

This was an incredible piece of poetry. It's funny how childhood teachings stay with you, I still get a feeling when I see a black cat. I have a neighbor who has one. I know it's silly, just like I won't walk under a ladder, and cringe if I brake a mirror. Thanks for sharing the history associated with black cats.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on June 04, 2019:

Sorry to hear about the loss of your daughter's black cat. I'd like to read what you wrote about it. Thanks for reading this and your kind comment Marie.

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on June 04, 2019:

My daughter's family lost a black cat not too long ago. I wrote about the experience on LinkedIn in free form. The piece is much shorter and very different in tone. I say, let the superstitions fade away.

Great use of imagery and repetition in your poem. Of course, I thought of Poe right away (that means you did a good job).

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on June 03, 2019:

Prrrrrrraula, Good to see you. Glad you enjoyed this little kitty cat poem. Take care my friend.

Suzie from Carson City on June 03, 2019:

J ...I'm always drawn to anything about kitty-cats! And you're ALWAYS very entertaining!

"Cats shall rule, Forevermore!!" Yes! Purrrrfect! Paula

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on June 03, 2019:

Thank you for your kind synopsis,Liz. It is much appreciated.

Liz Westwood from UK on June 03, 2019:

This is a skilful adaptation around the original blueprint. It evokes a clear image of the unfolding scene.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on June 02, 2019:

Thank you Asad, your comment is greatly appreciated.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on June 02, 2019:

Hi, my brother Sean. Thanks for the positive encouragement as always. Oh, tell Edgar to keep the applause down... this is a library haha

Blessings - forevermore to you too..

Asad Dillz Khan from United Kingdom on June 02, 2019:

A beautifully written poetry! An amazing dramatic poetry ever.

Ioannis Arvanitis from Greece, Almyros on June 02, 2019:

You are an immense talent, my brother! I think I heard Edgar applauding! Proud of you! I always loved black cats!

Blessings - forevermore!

Sean

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on June 01, 2019:

Hi Heather Ann, thank you for reading this and your generous comment is very much appreciated. So glad you enjoyed it.

Heather Ann on June 01, 2019:

I love everything about this post! Very interesting! And you are very talented!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 31, 2019:

Hi Linda, thanks for reading this. Glad you enjoyed this, and yes, where would we be without our cats? Gotta love them.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 31, 2019:

Your poem and its emulation of Poe's poem is very clever, John. I enjoyed reading the cat facts, too. My present cats are grey and white, but before them I had another grey one and a black one. I love and have loved all my cats, but the black one was special.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 31, 2019:

Lora, Thank you for the generous and interesting comment. Your black cats sounded wonderful "Baby Huey and Huckleberry" love the names. I can honestly say I never met a black cat I didn't like.

Lora Hollings on May 31, 2019:

I’m very familiar with the short stories of the master writer, Edgar Allen Poe. I especially like the Pit and Pendulum, The Fall of the House of Usher and The Purloined Letter. I’m not fond of his story, The Black Cat, however. But, after a couple of your stanzas in your poem, I immediately recognized that you were emulating the style and structure of one of my all time favorite poems, “The Raven.” Your poem was delightful John and especially the ending as I’m so glad that in the final stanza, the man realizes that this cat is a wise and holy being and a good spirit! Black cats are as sweet and gentle as any other cat and it's sad, that they are often overlooked in shelters just as black dogs are just because of their color! Please adopt these wonderful animals as they need homes too! And you won’t be disappointed. I had two beautiful black cats for a very long time till they passed away from old age. One was a long-haired cat that I named Baby Huey because he was so docile and the short-haired one, I named Huckleberry. He was a real sweet guy who loved to follow you all around the house. Indeed, cats rule! Thanks for sharing.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 31, 2019:

Thank you Peg. Hansel and Gretel what a great name for two lost kittens. Our black and white cat Nike turned up on our back landing as a tiny wet kitten during a storm funny thing was at the time we lived on a 40 acre rural property with no close neighbours so where’s he came from no one knows...possibly dumped.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 31, 2019:

Hi MsDora, I thought I had built up the eerie tension enough so that I oils ease into a bit of surprise “not so scary” ending. I am glad it was satisfactory.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 31, 2019:

Thank you for sharing those Patty, they both ring a vague bell so I may have to Google them. Glad you had fun reading this.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 31, 2019:

Hi Kaili, it is good to have even a non cat person read and enjoy this. I think I am simply an animal person As we have also had as many as five dogs (only one now.)

Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on May 31, 2019:

Delightfully creative, John, I love black cats whether they're witchy or not. My best friend had two black kittens that came to her on "a dark and stormy night" and that lived with her for the rest of their lives. She called them Hansel and Gretel which is another story altogether.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on May 31, 2019:

The storm brought you a gift. I expected something scary, and am fully satisfied with your surprise ending. Great read! No surprise there.

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on May 31, 2019:

This was a lot of fun!

Your poem had my brain reeling off extra stanzas and remembering the Mad Magazine parody called "The Beagle" -- 'Quoth the Beagle, "Drink Blatz Beer."'

It also brought to mind the short story 'The Wonderful Cat of Cobby Bean."

Kaili Bisson from Canada on May 31, 2019:

This is so well done John! I am not a cat person, but really enjoyed reading the facts about black cats. Loved the Poe'm!

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 31, 2019:

Linda, I am not sure I can adequately express how much I value your comment. I am glad you are also a black cat owner and he sounds adorable. Our black cat is huge, almost a small panther...well he would have to between 10 and 15 kilograms.

I hope you find the story by Poe, The Black Cat. It isn’t the most pleasant for a cat lover but a captivating read all the same.

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on May 31, 2019:

You had me with black cat.

This, my dear sir, has to be your best effort to date. Masterfully done; I'm certain that Mr. Poe is pleased.

I have a little black cat--he's perhaps 8 pounds dripping wet--and he has the sweetest personality. He loves his people, greets us when we arrive home, and holds conversations with each of us. My husband cannot sit down unattended. His long legs make the perfect (or purrfect) lap for a kitty, and he kneads and kneads in pleasure.

I had read all of those stories by Poe with the exception of The Black Cat. I'll need to find that at my local library. Thank you for a truly enjoyable read.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 31, 2019:

Hi Shaloo, yes black cats are seen differently around the world. Here it is also considered bad luck if one crosses your path. Thank you for reading.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 31, 2019:

Thank you so much Pamela. Yes, there was more than a touch of evil in much of Poe’s writing that is for certain.

Shaloo Walia from India on May 31, 2019:

Lovely poem full of imagination. It was interesting to read the facts related to black cats. In India, it's considered inauspicious if a black cat crosses your way.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on May 31, 2019:

I really loved your poem John. I read all of Edgar Allen Poe, and I was fascinated by his rather evil writing, and your poem cetainly is as good or better.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 31, 2019:

Cheers Bill. Yes, there are not many people who have never heard or read The Raven by Poe so I am sure it was quite obvious.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 31, 2019:

Well done, John! It was readily apparent where the inspiration came from, and you captured the cadence of the original quite well.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 31, 2019:

Clive, I appreciate that comment very much. Thanks man.

Clive Williams from Jamaica on May 31, 2019:

I adore your skills. Good Write.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 31, 2019:

Eric, your Spook was obviously a very smart and cheeky cat. Knowing she had big Chow Chows for backup obviously assisted her bravery. Thanks for commenting.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 31, 2019:

Hey Nithya. This was challenging but an enjoyable poem to write in the style of Poe's The Raven. Though exchanging a bird for a black cat not that difficult in the scheme of things. Thanks for reading.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on May 31, 2019:

I just adored my Spook. Just a tiny little tea cup size. Our dogs adored her also. I saw a couple times when she started a fight with a dog. And then backed up so her guard dogs could defend her. They were huge Chow Chows.

Thanks for this.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on May 31, 2019:

Loved your poem structured in the lines of The Raven. Enjoyed reading. The cat was drawn to your window aided by the divine will and decided to never leave you.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 31, 2019:

Lorna, thank you so much for commenting. I would like to think Poe would be impressed rather than appalled but I guess we'll never know. I think black cats are lucky too. I knew about leprechauns but didn't know Ireland was the land of the witches so thanks for sharing that.

Lorna Lamon on May 31, 2019:

Great article John - I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and I think Poe himself would have been very impressed. In my part of the world we consider black cats to be very lucky, however, Ireland is the land of the witches.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 31, 2019:

Hi Flourish, I really appreciate that comment. No, unfortunately, black cats do still get a bad rap. we adopted ours, Chairman Meow when the neighbours moved out and left him behind. He had been coming over to play with ours anyway, more than he was at home. He is the most affectionate of all our cats and the biggest.

Jamal is a good name for black cats i think. We had three ginger cats over the years and all named George. I am glad you enjoyed this.

FlourishAnyway from USA on May 31, 2019:

Extremely well done. This is one of my favorite of Poe’s and it’s one of my favorite of yours as well. Loved the facts and photos too. I’ve always had a soft spot for black cats. They have the sweetest personalities but don’t get the respect they merit. I have one now named Jamal (actually my last three black cats have been named that). He was a neighborhood “volunteer” like in the poem. I went to trap and fix/test/vaccinate another neighborhood cat who was eating at my door and got him. Didn’t even know he was eating here. He decided to stay. He went from a feral cat that would hit at our legs to one I can turn upside down and cuddle like a baby. Black cats are so fabulous.

John Hansen (author) from Queensland Australia on May 30, 2019:

Hello, Brenda. I am stoked that you enjoyed this poem and were entertained by the hub/article as a whole. It is the desire of most writers to be told that their writing is entertaining, and at least not boring. I am also glad that you liked the song/video "black cat." Thank you for your generous comment.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on May 30, 2019:

John,

I so enjoyed this piece of work. I loved how the black cat came to your cottage door during a storm.

You painted the picture so vividly of the fright you feel hearing the thumbing without seeing anyone there to be the reason.

Then eventually having the black cat come through your bedroom window and thinking it must be there for some magical witchcraft reason.

Great read!

I also enjoyed the information you used to accompany this poem.

Absolutely loved the video song of "black cat".

Thsnks for entertaining me.