Home Is Where the Heart Is

I know a little language of my cat, though Dante says

that animals have no need of speech and Nature

abhors the superfluous.   My cat is fluent.   He

converses when he wants with me.   To speak

is natural.   And whales and wolves I’ve heard

in choral soundings of the sea and air

know harmony and have an eloquence that stirs

my mind and heart—they touch the soul.   Here

Dante’s religion that would set Man apart

damns the effluence of our life from us

to build therein its powerhouse.

It’s in his animal communication Man is

true, immediate, and

in immediacy, Man is all animal.

His senses quicken in the thick of the symphony,

old circuits of animal rapture and alarm,

attentions and arousals in which an identity rearrives.

He hears

particular voices among

the concert, the slightest

rustle in the undertones,

rehearsing a nervous aptitude

yet to prove his. He sees the flick

of significant red within the rushing mass

of ruddy wilderness and catches the glow

of a green shirt

to delite him in a glowing field of green

—it speaks to him—

and in the arc of the spectrum color

speaks to color.

The rainbow articulates

a promise he remembers

he but imitates

in noises that he makes,

this speech in every sense

the world surrounding him.

He picks up on the fugitive tang of mace

amidst the savory mass,

and taste in evolution is an everlasting key.

There is a pun of scents in what makes sense.

Myrrh it may have been,

the odor of the announcement that filld the house.

He wakes from deepest sleep

upon a distant signal and waits

as if crouching, springs

to life.

Robert Duncan, “A Little Language” from 

Ground Work: Before the War.

Only the dog knows why the moon

Floats down the night; his raucous tune

Is urgent with the thing he fears

But falls on unbelieving ears.

If we had only learned to speak

The tongue of dogs instead of Greek

We should be better schooled to fight

The spells and portents of the night.

Now at the coming of the dark,

Young fools adrift in street and park

Yield to an epidemic swoon,

Abuse the dog and praise the moon.


-Vincent Starrett

Rain will fall again

on your smooth pavement,

a light rain like

a breath or a step.

The breeze and the dawn

will flourish again

when you return,

as if beneath your step.

Between flowers and sills

the cats will know.

There will be other days,

there will be other voices.

You will smile alone.

The cats will know.

You will hear words

old and spent and useless

like costumes left over

from yesterday’s parties.

You too will make gestures.

You’ll answer with words—

face of springtime,

you too will make gestures.

The cats will know,

face of springtime;

and the light rain

and the hyacinth dawn

that wrench the heart of him

who hopes no more for you—

they are the sad smile

you smile by yourself.

There will be other days,

other voices and renewals.

Face of springtime,

we will suffer at daybreak.

Cesare Pavese, "The Cats Will Know" from 

Disaffections: Complete Poems 1930-1950.