One morning when walking outside,
I saw a scrawny black cat on my porch.
Its head seemed too big for its body,
so I assumed it had not been eating.
We feed an outside calico cat, Claudette,
that adopted us a few years ago. Once,
In a previous residence, we fed a cat
abandoned when our neighbor moved.
But that attracted other cats we also fed
until we were feeding a herd of strays.
We had no desire to recreate that again
so we were careful to feed only Claudette
It appeared the black cat expected
to eat food from Claudette's bowl.
I clapped and stomped at the black cat,
which ran to the end of the garage.
I put food for Claudette in the bowl.
The black cat walked toward us,
But clapping and stomping I drove it back.
It wasn't my cat or my responsibility
The black cat sat at the end of the walk
Seemingly like a spirit from my past life
Looking at me with disdain, disappointed
That I didn't recognize our kindred souls
A long time ago, homeless, I hitch-hiked
with a backpack and sleeping bag
and no place to go, sleeping in fields,
using food stamps to buy food
Never destitute, never really hopeless,
I skimmed for a while just above death,
Like some lone shorebird crossing a pond.
Asking just to eat, just to be alive.
I walked slowly to the end of the garage.
The black cat stepped warily away.
I placed a handful of food on the sidewalk,
Then walked back. The black cat started to eat.
We have unalienable rights to life, liberty,
And the pursuit of happiness. So they say.
But not a right to happiness, nor place to live,
Nor to food, for that matter. Nor do cats.
Still, I wanted the black cat to live its life
With the liberty to go wherever it was going
To pursue happiness in whatever way
A cat finds happiness in its life
He was, after all, me, in the way that
Kindred souls share the experience
Of being only different by chance
Of being in the same circumstances
Indeed, how long before I find myself
In the same circumstances? Again.
So I fed the cat, hoping it was temporary.
It wasn't there that evening, or since.
Perhaps somewhere it found a home
A place with people who needed a cat
Otherwise the spirit of my soul still
Roams looking for a pat of affection
In an existential way, so do I, still
Living like an interloper in an uncertain life
Not really belonging anywhere nor wanted,
Like this black cat.