NaPoWriMo Day Five: Brendan Colley – Cats

Today poet and novelist Brendan Colley from Hobart, Tasmania, invites you to write about our feline friends. We’ve all known and encountered many cats in our lives, there may be one curled on your lap as you read this and there’s sure to be one or two prowling the neighbourhood like the cats in Brendan’s poem.

felix and jango

two black cats patrol our street
felix and jango
I can’t tell them apart
when I see one of them walking past
I say, ‘hey felix or jango’
they don’t bother to look at me
they know I’m a dog person
and they know I know they know

felix comes from up the street
jango comes from the house opposite ours
they’re pretty good at avoiding each another
but every now and then
they’ll end up on the same stretch of paving
and have to work things out
sometimes it’s a mini-fracas with a few pretend screeches
other times it’s a full-on-fight with genuine screams
these run-ins happen beneath my study window
I’m convinced they’re in a territorial battle
over who gets to ignore me

when we moved onto the street six years ago
the previous owner explained:
‘there’s a black cat, you’ll love him
he’s in and out all the yards
the last couple of years he started coming inside
we love him, you’ll love him.
his name’s felix’
we had a dog, so felix never came around
then our dog developed arthritis
and felix started coming
he’d slink over the fence on one side
and slowly cross the yard
he’d pause beside our sleeping dog
right at his nose
and glance up at me in the kitchen window
he meant it as a threat
then he’d move on, and lazily hop up over the fence
into the neighbouring yard

jango and I properly met when his family were away
I popped across a couple of times a day
to check on his food and water
and clean out the litter tray
after a time jango got comfortable with me
and began requesting affection
after my chores I’d sit on the floor
and jango would emerge from under the bed
and circle me
he’d lean into my back, and my legs
inviting me to stroke him
by the time his family returned we were best mates
but jango ghosted me
I didn’t take it personally
I’d have taken it personally if jango was a dog
whenever I see jango on the street
I call out, ‘jango’
he darts a little way into the distance, then turns around
and stares at me with untrusting green eyes
I hold out my hand, and call again
he never comes
honestly, it’s probably felix half the time
cats know when you don’t know

last night felix and jango got into it
it was past midnight, and I was up late with the word
first it was screeches, then silence, then more screeches
I cocked my head, knowing it could go either way
I was hoping one of them would take the higher ground
maybe scuttle off, or step to the side so the other
could pass through
but felix and jango had something to sort out
they went at it for a hard minute
sixty seconds of two cats screaming and clawing
is the equivalent of hagler – duran fifteen rounds
every crying rally burned a scar on my soul
I was sad for a long time afterwards

I appreciate felix and jango without really knowing them
when they hurt each other they hurt me
maybe it’s because they’re fighting over who gets
to walk through my yard and look at me in the window
with disdain

I hope their wounds are superficial
and healing well
they are the dons of our street
and though they take more than the protection they provide
we need them

Brendan Colley

Brendan Colley was born in South Africa and now lives in Hobart. Winner of the University of Tasmania Prize for best new unpublished work in the 2019 Premier’s Literary Prizes, his debut novel, The Signal Line, will be published on 1 May 2022.


If you’re interested in finding out more about his novel, you can check it out here:

The Signal Line

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