The Cat in the Window
by Rosemary Jones
An address to the cat in the window
Don’t go into the garden at this time of night, Mafdet, Sekhmet, Bastet, Bes, whichever one of the ancients you are. God of protection, small maker of mischief. The snow has raked out a new world. You won’t know where you are. The patterned bricks in the back yard strike seductive diagonal poses, but you might follow their raised edges into a silent snow hole. White and arty. Beware the painterly designs you’d rather like to get your claws into.
You stare into the garden looking for the creature responsible for making the three-clawed drags in the snow you saw this morning. Heraldings, quickenings from the fence to the dying dogwood, a night breath revealed! A drumbeat of form forged in snow. This is significant, you cat of uncertain wisdom. You know life eludes you out there. You feel it lurking. You dash from window to window, on the chase. You’re dying to play, to flirt, to bat something, especially a mouse, a big one. You know too well how life is denied you, while yet it is granted. Slanted. Because you’re an ancient. Your lineage sits on show in the window: your love of the world, your embrace of motif. Black cat in a window. Ancient black cat in a window. Ancient Egyptian tuxedoed cat in a tomb. The night looks in at you, jealous of your black skim of spine and sleek head and canny moonstone eye. Knowing this world, and the world past, you own the window. Just so.
An address to self
Beware the cat in the window, which got there before you. She’ll enter your dreams like a hieroglyph escaped from an ancient narrative and carve— given the right instrument—a seat in your window, an etching on your wall.
Bedroom wall. Wall wherein you wall off. Wall, behind the wall. Your implacable wall. Your caterwaul. Your work in progress.
She’ll tear down your wall. Standing on her hind legs (surely she’s too old for this caper), pawing at the door latch, bashing until it releases and in she strolls, asking for an early breakfast. Unabashed. A sweep of cat registered in minimal black, sketched lines. Like the sweep of a writer’s signature embellishing the front page of her newly published book. A vine of a line. Such a writerly motion will never enter your own vocabulary. You don’t really want to float across the flyleaf of a book in the window on display. All you want is to sit in the window, looking out. Like a cat. Observant. Stable. Unerring.
Little black cat. Roll over. A belly splash of white. And there, a ridge of gray, scattering like aging eyebrows. A new occurrence. You too? Age on the march?
What did those Egyptians want from their cats? Protection from mice and household nuisances and bad vapors. Who wouldn’t? More to the point, their owners hoped to embrace their cats as lifelong partners who’d sail along with you, whoever you were, across an infinite night of white enduring stars. A world of love, eternally whispered despite a cat’s marvelous indifference.
Your lovely hoist and arc swings through the room. I’m alone. Except for you, in one of your variations—Mafdet, Sekhmet, Bastet, Bes. Ancient. We’ll close out the night together.
No bad feelings if I take my bed? You take the window, little hieroglyph. That is, before you execute your pre-dawn trick of smacking the latch again, springing in as though you’re chasing a mouse or a toy squirrel and pouncing, on the rug, on the sill, before you settle at the end of the bed, a figurine chiseled into relief on a wall of rock.
Please, not another ancient Egyptian peep out of you.
Rosemary Jones is an Australian whose nonfiction has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, Cimarron Review, Sweet, and elsewhere, and was awarded Alligator Juniper’s first prize in nonfiction. Her fiction has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Sonora Review, Gargoyle, Corium Magazine, and Brilliant Flash. In 2019, she received a merit scholarship in the Summer Literary Seminars fiction competition. She currently teaches and tutors writing at Yale.