callmemadam (callmemadam) wrote,

  • Music:

Poetry Pleases

Listening to Poetry Please this afternoon I jumped up, as pleased as if I had just heard the start of a favourite record on Sounds of the Sixties. I'd heard the first words of a poem I'd forgotten about, Milk for the Cat by Harold Munro. I daresay there are poetry snobs who dislike a programme featuring 'my favourite poem' but I almost always find something to enjoy. The programmes devoted to just one poem or aspect of poetry can be very good indeed. After the prog. I scanned my poetry shelves but I've had so many purges, particularly of anthologies, that I couldn't find this particular poem to read again. So I googled for it and it's after the cut for everyone who loves cats.

When the tea is brought at five o'clock,
and all the neat curtains are drawn with care,
the little black cat with bright green eyes
is suddenly purring there.

At first she pretends, having nothing to do,
she has come in to merely blink at the gate,
but though tea may be late or the milk may be sour,
she is never late.

And presently her agate eyes
take a soft large milky haze,
and in her independent casual glance
becomes a stiff, hard gaze.

Then she stamps her claws or lifts her ears
or twists her tail and begins to stir,
till suddenly all her little body becomes
one breathing, trembling purr.

The children eat and wriggle and laugh;
the two old ladies stroke their silk:
But the cat is grown small and thin with desire,
transformed to a creeping lust for milk.

The white saucer like some full moon descends
at last from the cloud of the table above;
she sighs and dreams and thrills and glows,
transfigured with love.

She nestles over the shining rim,
buries her chin in the creamy sea;
her tail hangs loose; each drowsy paw
is doubled under each bending knee.

A long dim ecstasy holds her life;
her world is an infinite shapeless white,
till her tongue has curled the last holy drop;
then she sinks back into the night.

Draws and dips her body to heap
her sleepy nerves in the great arm-chair,
lies defeated and buried deep
three or four hours unconscious there.
Tags: harold munro, milk for the cat, poetry, radio 4

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