Essay / Art

Meowl

Last month was the fiftieth anniversary of the obscenity trial for Allen Ginsberg’s beat poem Howl. The verdict back in 1957 was that there was plenty of artistic and social justification for the poem to be as nasty as it was. There’s no denying the vigor and appeal of the poem, and in finding his voice Ginsberg turned out to be speaking for the counter-cultural wing of the next few generations.

But what if a cat had written Howl? I know you’re wondering. So I give you Meowl. Snap your fingers and say groovy if you dig.

howl cat from 1881 harpers toon

I.

I saw the best cats of my litter destroyed by catnip, clawing yowling shaved,

ripping their way across the shag carpet at dawn looking for a frisky fix,

fuzzyheaded mouseketeers purring for the feline connection to the whiskered dynamo in the overlapping rhythm of the vibrating larynx,

who hairballs and mange and declawed sat up yowling in the fire escape darkness of pet store paper shred carpeted towers contemplating meow mix,

who stretched their sacroiliacs in great swooping arcs of Roman aqueducts over ancient riverbeds,

who squatted the Sphinx over blazing desert books of the dead with Egyptian critter-headed godlings walking crazy sideways hieratic hieroglyph headdress,

who sat in the unrepeatable infinite never-stinking box of pre-fab sand hunkered straining holding aloof four paws down and housecat duty to do,

who hid anywhere table couch back porch bed’s sweet safety from little cousin Murray while the pre-pubescent outrageous brain of mayhem and torment devised mock comedy rituals of feline paw tapings, tail pullings, loud voice fake meow shrillings no end,

who hacked up the hundred holy hairballs of hell’s half acre,

who saw straight through the mouse from the store that was stuffed stitched mass produced and plastic wrapped, but pounced on it anyway,

who took the baby talk with a straight face and a certain quiet dignity mommy’s widow baby who’s a goo boy yes hims is gotta special tweat for sweetums bwess his heart.

2 howl cat from 1881 harpers toon

II.

What brute of bull and dog chased them around the house and gnawed their haunches?

Bowser! Slobber! Bark! Home security pet! Chewbones and neck chains and throat thunder!

Bowser! Hot breath at the heels! Kittens shivering under the porch! Tabby up a tree! Old Possum not so practical!

Bowser! Nightmare of Bowser! Bitey Bowser! Bowser the not-cat! Bowser the canine!

Bowser! Bad dog! No! Bowser spit it out! Bad dog, Bowser!

Bowser whose teeth make the back arch semicircular, the hair stand up straight in every universal crazy direction of rage, whose wet nose is called the very sign of health!

Bowser who chased me right away! Bowser in whose doghouse I poop at night! Bowser who would swallow me down like rampant belligerent Jonah! Wake up in Bowser! Whiskers going every which way!

Bowser! Bowser! Looney tunes! Merry Melodies! Brick walls, big trucks, catapults! Robot decoys! Dynamite sticks! Round black bombs with fizzing fuses! Bowser!

3 howl cat from 1881 harpers toon

III.

Sylvester! I’m with you in Meowsy-Land
where you’re a better cat than I am

I’m with you in Meowsy-Land
where canary feathers float from your mouth

I’m with you in Meowsy-Land
tipping trash cans seeking fishbones nevermind the stink

I’m with you in Meowsy-Land
making biscuits on the lap of middle America first with the left paw then with the right, a friend in knead is a friend indeed

I’m with you in Meowsy-Land
in my dreams you stride up the front steps to lay the sacrifice of one slaughtered mouse on the thankless altar of cartoon suburbia

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