ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is from the February 3, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from LJ user My_partner_doug. It also fills the "curtainfic" square in my 1-3-15 card for the [community profile] trope_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Damask thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"Fragmented and Disconnected"


Macavity comes and goes
exactly as he pleases,
a thin ginger tomcat
slipping between fences.

He gives me that slow blink
that cats have, almost like
he's kissing me with his eyes.

Sometimes I use my talent
to make spots of light on the ground
for him to chase and play with.


Macavity is a strange companion.

Sometimes he avoids me,
licking his shoulder and
walking away when I
come to the front.

Other times he watches me
while I'm working out.

Become the shadow,
a voice murmurs in my mind,

and I can almost get the sense of it,
as if I could merge Mira's gift with my own
to sidle through unseen and bend myself
bonelessly around the corners,

but it always slips away again
before I can quite catch it, like
a cat who does not want to be petted.


I chatter at Macavity
as I clean the refrigerator.

"Who's a good kitty?" I say
as I clean out the dairy drawer.
"Do you want some cheese?"

"Mrrrp," he replies,
and I put a few shreds
on the napkin for him.

I wash out the drawer
in the sink, and there I see
Paige's jar of bacon grease
sitting on the counter.

"I bet you'd like a taste of this, too,"
I say, waggling the jar at Macavity.

He stands up on his hind paws,
dancing eagerly for the treat,
and gives a loud, "Maarrrow!"

"It's good for preventing hairballs,"
I tell him, which is actually
something I learned from Clement.

"You're going to spoil that cat,"
Mallory drawls as I drop bacon grease
onto the napkin for Macavity.


Mentally I review what he's been eating;
we keep a bowl of dry food on the porch
for him now, along with some water.

"No, I'm keeping track so he doesn't
get too much," I tell Mallory.

The cat finishes his snack and glides
under the table, out of the way.

"Will he be all right in here?" I ask.
"I mean, are you allergic or anything?"

"Not specifically," says Mallory.
"On a bad day I shouldn't be around
anything that's an allergen, but
most of the time I'm okay with cats.
I don't think this one likes me much, though."

It's true that Macavity is opinionated
and unpredictable -- he doesn't even
like all of my headmates the same way.

Mallory watches him, his eyes no more
than two amber gleams under the table,
like the reflectors on a bicycle's wheels,
gauging how he responds to us.


In the afternoon, I watch Macavity
out in the yard, slowly gnawing the head
off a rat he has captured.

Somehow I'm usually the one
he does gross things in front of,
and I can't help wondering
if he does it on purpose just
to see me wrinkle my nose
and back away.

I feel fragmented and disconnected,
like I have ever since Mallory
brought Heron over to the house and
Ham just about bit their heads off.

Sometimes I think Ham is like a cat himself,
prickly and unpredictable, one minute
rubbing against your leg and then
the next clawing your hand.

I just don't know whether
to pet him or walk away.


It's been hard to balance the needs
between Ham and Clement
and everyone else,

harder now with Clement so desperate
to learn from another healer, with
Ham and Mira so determined
to protect our secrets.

The ache of that tension
spreads through my chest,
and I breathe through it,
channeling the pain
into power.

Warm fur brushes against my skin
as Macavity flows into my lap
and curls himself into a ball,
purring like an engine.

Already I can feel the taut ache
begin to ease, the pain fading until
it drops below the threshold I can use.

"That's quite a superpower you have,"
I say as I pet the soft fur.

It's not a superpower,
he replies. All cats can do that.

"He's feeling friendly now?" Mallory asks,
sitting down beside me on the living room couch.

"Apparently so," I agree. My hand finds
its own way along the vibrating body.
The cushions sigh as Mallory
shifts a little closer so she
can lean against my side.

"He always seems to know
what mood you're in," she says.
"I wish it were that easy
for me to figure out."

All you have to do is listen,
Macavity muses, but I can't tell
whether Mallory hears him or not.

Maybe it doesn't matter.
I'm not as worried as Ham or Mira
are about exposure, nor Clement
about lack of training.

I just clean up whatever emotional fallout
comes from the rest of my headmates.

With Mallory warm and heavy against my shoulder,
already drifting toward much-needed sleep,
and Macavity purring in my lap,

my job is a little easier.

* * *


"Animals have come to mean so much in our lives. We live in a fragmented and disconnected culture. Politics are ugly, religion is struggling, technology is stressful, and the economy is unfortunate. What's one thing that we have in our lives that we can depend on? A dog or a cat loving us unconditionally, every day, very faithfully."
-- Jon Katz

Women and cats may interact somewhat differently than men and cats. Here you can see that Macavity has slightly different ways of interacting with each headmate. Despite Damask knowing that Macavity is a telepath, they haven't quite put together that he knows their secret, probably because he's a cat rather than a human.

Cats blink to blow you a kiss.

Cat body language is complex. Composure grooming can indicate unease or dismissal. Petting aggression or avoidance of petting may happen with sensitive or mercurial cats.

Women talk more to their cats, and cats talk back to their people. Notice that some individual cats, and breeds, are more or less talkative. Many oriental breeds are chatty cats, as is the Maine coon; and it's no accident these also rank among the most intelligent breeds. Since Macavity is super-intelligent and a telepath, he could express himself in more human terms; but often he prefers his native tongue.

Cats love the taste of fat, and it helps prevent hairballs; bacon grease is one popular choice.

Cats hunt many things that humans consider vermin; even the presence and smell of a cat may deter rats. Cats may present dead critters as a gift or to receive praise, but some seem to treat it as a prank to make humans cringe or scream, a game in the same category as Rub the Cat Hater/Allergic Person.

Some cats are particularly alert to distress and will comfort an upset person. Purring soothes pain and speeds healing of injuries. In Terramagne, I count superpowers as things which a species cannot ordinarily do. For cats, purring is not a superpower because they all do it, even though it boosts healing in ways that would be a minor superpower for humans. Conversely speaking aloud is not a superpower for humans, but is for most other species.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-02-08 10:14 pm (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
Oh! This is lovely! <3 I love Macavity and his reaction to Damask. But then that's a given since there's nothing in the poem that I don't love. <3

(no subject)

Date: 2015-02-08 10:44 pm (UTC)
mdlbear: (happy-turtle)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Cat therapy! Yay!

(no subject)

Date: 2015-02-09 12:10 am (UTC)
thnidu: our cat (Ista)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Greatly enjoyed over here! Ista (pic, much younger) gives me a great deal of comfort (and occasionally much aggravation).

Odd serendipity: an old grad school friend just sent me an article about wild turkeys' domestication of humans. And before that, quite a while before that, one of the first answers I posted on Quora.com was about cats' vocalizations and how they domesticated us.
Edited Date: 2015-02-09 12:17 am (UTC)

Re: Yay!

Date: 2015-02-13 07:01 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Yes, but the plants are a result of deliberate, knowing human genetic intervention (crossbreeding). Cats and turkeys and homines sapientes -- before Mendel.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-02-09 12:16 am (UTC)
thnidu: my familiar. "Beanie Baby" -type dragon, red with white wings (Default)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Oh, the poem was so much fun I almost forgot this!:

• On a bad day I should be around
anything that's an allergen
-> shouldn't


Date: 2015-02-09 12:25 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Needed this today, but my cats are shunning me because I do not have the remote to turn off the RAIN outside.

I love Macavity's different languages and approaches to each headmate-- and that they don't realize that they, in turn, observe and approach Macavity differently!

(no subject)

Date: 2015-02-09 02:48 am (UTC)
chanter_greenie: a slightly faded picture of a three-legged torbie kitty cat with a lot of rust coloring in her fur (supermodel kitty)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
Aww, poor Clement and Keane. One of these days I am totally going to prompt you for Clement getting a chance to train with another healer, and to heck with safety concerns for once. Maybe that could be a Spoon connection?

Kitty cat therapy. :D On a related note, IMO Maine coons are love. And fluff. And purrs and chirps. XD

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2015-02-09 08:20 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] chanter_greenie
I love Ham dearly, I really do like him quite a lot most of the time, but he's wrong on this one. Mira's stance is a little more understandable, given her nature overall, but that doesn't make her any more right on this issue. ... Gah, poor Clement and Keane. Maybe Mira needs an opportunity too, as in to discover that it isn't always absolutely necessary to hide first, interact later? Hmm.

Kitty cat vocabulary is a fascinating, delightful thing. I'm now thinking of the familiar Siamese *mrrrow* vs. a Maine coon going prrt? prrt? Purrrrr. XD

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-03 06:40 am (UTC)
thnidu: our cat (Ista)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
I just reread this.

Earlier this evening I realized how much benefit I get from my Ista's using me as a mattress. When I lie down on my back, she'll usually come around, hop onto my chest, knead my tummy for a few minutes, and then, often, lie down to sleep or at least doze. Her breathing is a constant purr — her purr-machine is always on — and it's very soothing and relaxing for me, though as often as not I wind up napping in midday, longer than I meant to.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-02-08 10:59 pm (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Awww. Endings. :)

Our Bombay Kitty is a most excellent therapy cat, and the little tweener tuxedo cat (no longer really a kitten) is taking lessons...

Cats are IME excellent judges of character ... although I'm not sure what McCavity is picking up from a slowly changing Mallory...

Thank you!

Date: 2015-02-10 04:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Awww. Endings. :) <<


>> Our Bombay Kitty is a most excellent therapy cat, and the little tweener tuxedo cat (no longer really a kitten) is taking lessons... <<

That's sweet.

>> Cats are IME excellent judges of character ... <<

I agree.

>> although I'm not sure what McCavity is picking up from a slowly changing Mallory... <<

Partly ambivalence, and partly remembering the bar fight. Mallory was pretty fucked up, earlier in the year.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-02-09 02:34 am (UTC)
kelkyag: notched triangle signature mark in light blue on yellow (Default)
From: [personal profile] kelkyag
<warm fuzzies>

(no subject)

Date: 2015-02-09 06:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rix-scaedu.livejournal.com
I have heard of a cat who used to bring home rabbits and the occasional fox...


Date: 2015-02-09 06:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
The mightiest hunter we ever had was a black tom named Shadow. He brought home a rabbit once -- and a cock pheasant. He also brought down countless mice and sparrows. One interesting thing I've noticed is that cats tend to catch a great many invasive species, particularly sparrows and starlings, who I've seen eating out of the cat bowls. But they almost never catch the much warier native songbirds such as finches or cardinals.

Re: Yes...

Date: 2015-02-09 08:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rix-scaedu.livejournal.com
One of the problems we have is that cats are quite good at catching and killing the smaller marsupials. Plus they seem to out compete the native equivalent to themselves. It doesn't help that the native largest predator in this part of the country is a medium sized canine - and feral cats measuring a metre from nose tip to tail tip have been seen...

Re: Yes...

Date: 2015-02-09 06:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
In an ecosystem that has no niche similar to housecats, they are devastating. Placental mammals tend to outcompete marsupials in general. This is especially true on islands.

In North America, we have foxes, raccoons, lynxes, bobcats, etc. so the wildlife is well adapted to deal with small predators some of whom can climb. It just does not have the same impact as introducing housecats somewhere they're completely different from the extant predators.


ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)

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