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Cat, Failing

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A figment, a thumbed
maquette of a cat, some
ditched plaything, something
brought in from outside:
his white fur stiff and grey,
coming apart at the seams.
I study the muzzle
of perished rubber, one ear
eaten away, his sour body
lumped like a bean-bag
leaking thinly
into a grim towel. I sit
and watch the light
degrade in his eyes.

He tries and fails
to climb to his chair, shirks
in one corner of the kitchen,
cowed, denatured, ceasing to be
anything like a cat,
and there's a new look
in those eyes
that refuse to meet mine
and it's the shame of  being
found out.  Just that.
And with that
loss of face
his face, I see,
has turned human.

Source: Poetry (November 2007)

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This poem originally appeared in the November 2007 issue of Poetry magazine

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Cat, Failing

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  • Born in Perthshire, poet Robin Robertson was brought up on the northeast coast of Scotland where, as he says in a 2008 interview, “history, legend and myth merged cohesively in the landscape.” Robertson’s early influences include the stories of Celtic and Classical myth, the vernacular ballads, and folklore. His deeply sensory poems explore notions of love and loss framed by the dialogue between the classical and the contemporary. Describing the poet’s task, Robertson tells of the desire to reveal “the refreshed world and, through a language thick with sound and connotation and metaphor, make some sense: some new connection between what is seen and felt and what is understood.” As a reviewer for the New Yorker notes, “The genius of this Scots poet is for finding the sensually charged moment—in a raked northern seascape, in a sexual or gustatory encounter—and depicting it in language that is simultaneously spare and ample,...

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