Monday, August 9, 2010

A Clutter Of Kittens

This is a poem about keeping Siamese cats. We had Char-Li, Lu-Si, and Beh-Si. The dams had kittens about two weeks apart. I was in Mrs. Winston’s class, in the fifth grade. Mrs. Winston had badly shaped front teeth, stained by tobacco. We were living in the central valley south and east of the Bay Area, a reasonable commute from the town of Stocton where my parents commuted for their teacher education certifications. They both taught high school on provisional licenses, that they got on the basis of both being Bachelor’s Degreed from Cal Berkeley and actively in teacher training. This was a California ploy to get teachers for the Baby Boomers as they were fast coming onto the scene and swelling the school rolls. World War II and the Korean conflict were over but there were still vacancies in many areas caused by war casualties. We lived first in town, renting a house not far from downtown in Oakdale. That’s where I lived in the fourth grade, Mrs. Looper’s class. As it became available, we moved into a tract home we purchased on contract on the edge of town in a housing development. I was then two houses away from the end of Pleasanton Place and the start of farm country and irrigation canals, where I went quite often. Oakdale is near to Modesto. Our phone numbers should you have a way to phone into the past, were 7774 and then 7777. There were no prefixes or area codes. I was 9 through 11, so this was 1954 through 1956. Something like that.

I fell one day, face first on a neighbor’s driveway and broke a front tooth in . I never had it fixed because it never hurt, until my last girlfriend wanted me to fix it. This was a mistake because the filling has never worked well, just as the caps did not then. I argued about it then, convincing my parents to do nothing because nothing was staying on the tooth. They were poor and mainly happy it didn’t hurt me.

Char-Li was the tom. He had a total kink at the tip of his tail and an attitude quite suitable to a tom that was close to feral. He was a fairly large and beefy cat. He would go wandering for several days at a time as the fields were full of live food on the hoof, so to speak. Lu-Si was long and slender, had come from a tough life and had touchy insides but she still succeeded in breeding. Beh-Si was an ordinary shape and more filled out, as if she was tabby rather than Siamese. At this time, Lu-Si had three kittens first. Then Beh-Si had five. The kittens got tangled after a while and did not care whose mother was whose. Neither did the dams care.

A Clutter Of Kittens

Once we had two dams,
a tom, and eight kittens too,
all skittering on
the well waxed lino
floors at tip top speed
trying to turn a hard left
into the kitchen
and making a pile,
a squirming kitten tangle
against the white fridge.

June 24, 2009 9:05:29 AM


  1. Welcome back.

    The kittens are gorgeous, as kittens must be!

  2. Hi Lucy. Racoon kits are perhaps more compelling than kittens because they have amazing little hands, but the rarity of the experience may have something to do with why I feel that way. Nothing seems more harmless and delightful than a racoon kit except perhaps a kitten. Beside them a puppie is slightly inane because kittens possess a purpose that puppies lack. Their purpose is made hilarious because they as yet lack all actual poise even though they can ape poise, and lack all real violence even though they attempt it. They are weightless. They hurtle. They very nearly levitate, and in their lightness, they ease my heavy weight too.


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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