The Poem Cat by Erica Jong

Sometimes the poem
doesn't want to come;
it hides from the poet
like a playful cat
who has run
under the house
& lurks among slugs,
roots, spiders' eyes,
ledge so long out of the sun
that it is dank
with the breath of the Troll King.

Sometimes the poem
darts away
like a coy lover
who is afraid of being possessed,
of feeling too much,
of losing his essential
loneliness-which he calls
freedom.

Sometimes the poem
can't requite
the poet's passion.

The poem is a dance
between poet & poem,
but sometimes the poem
just won't dance
and lurks on the sidelines
tapping its feet-
iambs, trochees-
out of step with the music
of your mariachi band.

If the poem won't come,
I say: sneak up on it.
Pretend you don't care.
Sit in your chair
reading Shakespeare, Neruda,
immortal Emily
and let yourself flow
into their music.

Go to the kitchen
and start peeling onions
for homemade sugo.

Before you know it,
the poem will be crying
as your ripe tomatoes
bubble away
with inspiration.

When the whole house is filled
with the tender tomato aroma,
start kneading the pasta.

As you rock
over the damp sensuous dough,
making it bend to your will,
as you make love to this manna
of flour and water,
the poem will get hungry
and come
just like a cat
coming home
when you least
expect her.

by Erica Jong

Other poems by 'Erica Jong'

After the Earthquake

Autobiographical

Autumn Perspective

Beast, Book, Body

Climbing You

Colder

Dear Colette

Flying at Forty

For an Earth-Landing

Henry James in the Heart of the City

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