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.
© 2019 John Hansen