Dante’s Cat, its Acoustics

May 23, 2014

A hawk-like silence guides his every step.
The kill is but a breath away—
to exhale, so quiet, so pale—
Will nothing ever move again?
Imagine how this consummate grace
so precise now under a sun once perceived
as wholly good, can spark a moment of death
for but a moment’s inattention.
Dante thinks of his poem here.
How it starts out in a dark forest—
a regular day for most of us—
a product of earth’s revolution, this light—
not a perfect circle, nor a perfect cat—
which in turn turns a false guide
into a real one, a radiance full
of God’s grace, bright for sure,
but so swift, it leaves not a sound
to echo His good intentions.

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4 Responses to “Dante’s Cat, its Acoustics”

  1. John Stevens Says:

    Another poem that takes some careful reading and rereading to appreciate, Jim. I don’t know exactly what is running through your own mind, but you sent me to reread the opening canto of the Divine Commedy and I ended by pondering the theme of sound and silence in your poem, especially in the title and in the opening and closing lines. This is concentrated poetry – not ‘homeopathic’, to quote my own recent poem and your comment on it.

  2. Tom D'Evelyn Says:

    I wonder if part of the effect derives from the impossibility of the grammar. Would a paraphrase ruin the poetry?

  3. extrasimile Says:

    John, reading Dante is always a good idea. For more on the time thing see below
    Tom, well this is a provocative idea. Allow me to think out loud for a moment.
    Paraphrase always destroys the poetry. It’s what it is supposed to do[I’d argue]. It’s why teaching poetry is so difficult [one of the reasons]. Helen Vendler notes Wallace Stevens once suggested you would have to write his poetry to understand it—not paraphrase it. [In her book ‘Words chosen out of desire’]
    It’s not so much that the grammar is impossible—there it is, right in front of you—it’s that the situation described is [seems?] impossible. I think I sort of aspire to a grammatical irregularity—if not to say craziness. It may be a result of my Parkinson’s disease. [I’m not sure if I told you about the PD; I tend to keep it off the front burners of the blog—but it’s not a secret either.] The trouble with grammatical irregularity is that it leads to chaos. But so does life. [‘Chaos’ is too broad a word here. It will have to do for the time being. Grammatical irregularity…no.] Nonetheless it does suggest a literary ‘shaking’. Hard to write cadenced prose with this tremor. Hard to believe in it.
    My understanding of Christian theology is that time-keeping is only relevant in purgatory. In hell and in paradise your verb forms would become both condensed and/ or irrelevant [Not sure ifd I know what I mean by this]. We’re in eternity here. Now Dante may be inside this framework, but Dante’s cat is not. Put them together and what have you got?
    On the other hand, paraphrase might prove a useful tool.
    And it would be a challenge.
    And I don’t think I can do it.
    So I’ll see.

  4. extrasimile Says:


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