Cat in An Empty Apartment

Did you, like me, love the Kieslowski 3 Colors Trilogy (Blue/White/Red)? Then maybe you already know that it was inspired by a poem, Love At First Sight, by Wislawa Szymborska ? I didn’t, which is kind of sad, given I just rewatched the trilogy last winter. But I don’t go looking for poems. I like them to find me.

I came across the poem below while surfing for interesting pieces about animals.  Szymborska wrote it as a eulogy for either a friend or her second husband, depending on whose blog you’re reading.  I’d like to post the poem in memory of a customer, Beacon Hill resident Ron Viger, who just lost a short, intense battle with brain cancer, leaving behind his Welsh terrier Lily (adopted by a good friend of his).

Cat in an Empty Apartment

Wislawa Szymborska, translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanaugh

Die—you can’t do that to a cat.
Since what can a cat do in an empty apartment?
Climb the walls?
Rub up against the furniture?
Nothing seems different here
but nothing is the same.
Nothing’s been moved
but there’s more space.
And at nighttime no lamps are lit.

Footsteps on the staircase,
but they’re new ones.
The hand that puts fish on the saucer
has changed, too.

Something doesn’t start
at its usual time.
Something doesn’t happen
as it should.
Someone was always, always here,
then suddenly disappeared
and stubbornly stays disappeared.

Every closet’s been examined.
Every shelf has been explored.
Excavations under the carpet turned up nothing.
A commandment was even broken:
papers scattered everywhere.
What remains to be done.
Just sleep and wait.

Just wait till he turns up,
just let him show his face.
Will he ever get a lesson
on what not to do to a cat.
Sidle toward him
as if unwilling
and ever so slow
on visibly offended paws,
and no leaps or squeals at least to start.

About Kathy Palmer

I grew up in NJ and Belgium and eventually settled in Portland, ME. Until missing the big city, which inspired a return to Boston in 2010, and the opening of Fish & Bone on Newbury Street. Fish & Bone and its original sibling store Fetch (est. 2000) bring together some of the things I love the most: animals, real food, great design, having an impact, the natural world, urban life, creative solutions, good community, and a good laugh. Zip is all pug, but I'm a cultural mutt.