Christmas Fire Cat

I threw a crumb of cheeses into the fire
and logs fell over. Flames licked blue. Pine snapped.

The tiny crumb, a molten mote no higher
than the hat on the flea on the elf’s coat, flared and mapped
itself into a shadow flash that flew
on flue wards, a one-molecule fondue
that no one noted except the elf, and me,
and the flea in her tiny too-tight Christmas hat.
What spirit of the hearth had set it free?

‘’Twas me,’ the smoke spoke, arched, became a cat.

The flea, the elf, and I stared at the cat.
Though it heard the flea’s faint ‘How’d you do that?’ shout,
at first the cat ignored us while it sat
and licked its fur, the burned bits winking out.
Then it sized us up and I thought I saw it smile.

‘I’m the Christmas Cat, and I’ve come to help you while
away the hours that fuel this Christmas Eve.
You spent the morning driving yourselves to near
depression pricing presents, and then came home to grieve.
Not one of you remembers Christmas cheer.’

‘I do,’ the elf said. ‘When younger, I believed
that the dirty old man I helped was Santa Claus.
He told me, ‘Here’s your bonus, up this sleeve,’
and he took advantage. I still see his paws…’

‘You are making that up, you naughty lying twit!’
the cat hissed, clawing where the elf would sit.

But the elf, even quicker, hung himself from the mantel with care,
so the cat, saving face, confronted the Yule flea and me.
‘Today in the sun when you three were enjoying the air,’
she asked, ‘did you think beyond lunch and the beach and the sea?’

The flea in her too-tight hat piped, ‘I remember
when the snow would grow, and you would tell us stories.’

The Christmas Cat thought hard on that. An ember
in her fur glowed gold. ‘Ghosts,’ the flea said. ‘Glories.’

The cat purred, pleased as gin becomes with lime.
‘Listen,’ she said. ‘Once upon a time…’

And the elf re-joined the little Yule flea and me
while we stared the fire down and listened to the cat
as she retold old tales: Nativity,
and mistletoe hunts, and more nearly as good as that.

Monstrous Descent

‘What kind of wolf are you?’
                                              ‘I wish a were.’

‘Are you speaking grit,’ the gyring gorgon asked,
‘or subjugating us to the subjunctive?’

‘A were-wolf!’ whined the wolf whelp warily watching
the gyring gorgon’s garter-snake coiffure.
‘Why aren’t you venomous? Why am I not stone?’

‘Because we’re euro versions of old Europe,
defanged from funnelling finance to the Greeks,’
she fumed. She furrowed fang-scarred brow. She sat.

The whelp drew courage from that, and drew near.
It drew a Druid symbol in the sand.
It asked, ‘If we revert can I be dire?’

The gorgon hesitated, hissed green hairspray
at a spit-curl serpent forelock going astray.

She sighed, ‘Frankly, we must all now hang together.’
‘Surely Franklin,’ nit-picked pedantically the wolf.
‘Assuredly, we all hang separately
on every common interest we debate.’

Each regards the other, seeing nothing
they have in common, saving comedies
of errors, and they exit. Curtains. War.

Capitol in 2045 CE

Pig Duroc and Cat Ginger wade in water dark as tea.
It is ankle deep in this part of old Washington DC
‘It is low tide now, but dampish,’ the cat gingerly explains.
‘Especially now we are suffering from unending monsoon rains.
Clove your hooves and clog dance. That churns up baby squid.
They’re an easy catch. I’ll show you.’ Cat Ginger purred and did.
Pig Duroc did a pirouette, then a header, pranged a bream.
He ate fresh fish and chortled. ‘Without humans life’s a dream!’

Swamp Stoat

[This is an experimental, 100-lines-so-far beginning of something: fantasy? mythology? ecology? fable? animal story?]

Squirrels of mercy, vagrant eagles,
and a swamp god’s left-out stoat
share a moment of communion
drawing straws for Joseph’s coat.

Vibrant, bleach-proof lurid colours
draw the vagrant eagles’ gaze.
This allows the swamp god’s stoat to
steal a march and lease a maze

that it bids the squirrels to enter.
Oozing mercy they comply.
Up start eagles. Down-filled fissures
in the mazes’ duckboards try

to mislead the squirrels of mercy
delving deeper in the maze
of amazing grates of hearsay
and of other dubious ways.

Snapping from their hue-dazed centre
the eagles charge into the sky.
Gyring higher, their wings flail
the frozen paths where jet planes fly.

Soaring raptors riding updrafts,
flaring feathers of their tails
shred off fragments of the contrails
lucid diamonds in the sky.

Up start eagles. Down-filled fissures
in the duckboards of the maze
whisper clues devoid of meaning
to the squirrels whose feats amaze

the fishes, sloths and teddies sluicing
on the maze’s Escher side,
in dimensions no deducing
can make real. Illusions glide

up the nostrils of the lost.
They begin hallucinating
that the no-name goat is host
to a mage elucidating

why and how the ways though many
keep reducing when they’re measured
till what’s left is less than any
chance for exit though that’s treasured.

Greedy eagles flail at contrails,
lucid diamonds in the sky.
Peering down they plot the faint trails
through the veiled maze as squirrels try

to elicit Lucy’s meaning
if there was one. Failing there
the squirrels seek exits from the leaning
maze wall of the swamp stoat’s lair.

The swamp stoat, laird of maze and hirer
of successes to the needy,
cannot tolerate the slyer
vagrant eagles turning greedy.

Greedy eagles savour stoat stew.
That’s a fact the swamp stoat heard
often, when small, from his mother.
Grown up, he’d thought that absurd.

But, he thinks, since they are vagrant,
forever gyring with no home,
will these raptors find him fragrant?
Frightening vicious spectres roam

in what stoats presume is thinking.
the stoat enters the maze himself.
Through the maze mist he sees blinking
mercy candles on a shelf,

and vicious fishes, and torn teddies
from an office Christmas fete,
and a sloth that’s never ready.
These are the things that congregate

in the centre where the maze is
often entered, seldom left.
That’s to say, the part where daisies
grow amok and green, bereft

first of mercy, then direction.
Fishes, teddies, and sloth tarry
there awaiting benediction
or some happy chance to marry

up with guiding lights who’ll lead them
to the maze’s outer edge,
failing that, to guides who’ll feed them
during their stumbling through the hedge

that surrounds the maze’s centre.
The hedge blocks progress, makes them lame.
Then they meet the stoat’s dissenter:
it’s the goat without a name.

How to hail this holy goat?
She’s a ewe, perhaps a granny.
Trying for a cheery note,
the sloth stage-whispers, slowly, ‘Nanny’.

[I need to add more here, the goat being a false ‘prophet, profit’.]

Chinless, pretty like a sea lion
although fishes beg to differ
approaches from the maze’s tree line
the esteemed solution giver.

Neither mercy squirrel nor eagle
nor a sloth nor stoat nor even
Spot, the first grade’s favourite beagle,
it’s the orca Splendid Steven.

Steven steals a march and razes
the maze walls. The creatures roam
free of where the sly stoat hazes.
Even the eagles find a home.


I went inside. There were squirrels and dromedaries.
I saw robed figures I assumed were human.
The shorter dromedary bid me welcome.
Grey squirrels tail-swept dust from a leather chair.
I sat. That let the theatre begin.
The witnesses were called. They did not answer.
The prosecuting dromedary belched.
‘It’s the Irish grass,’ she said. ‘Peat gives me gas.’
She dropped the charges. They bounced and exploded.
What had been floor consumed all but the chair.
With the squirrels and me on board, its jets sufficed
to eject us out through what had been the door.

Bésame, Carnicero

Pig Duroc’s uncle What Me Worry
had ended, Duroc knew, as curry.
So our hero harbours little
sympathy for humans. Spittle

mars his enunciation when he
thinks back to the pony’s whinny
when the butcher’s axe had ended
hopes his uncle’s life extended

beyond the age that is now Duroc’s.
He knows the butcher is thinking ham hocks
so Pig Duroc plays his trump card,
speaks Spanish, speaking fast and hard

to the pony: ‘Palomino,
life is one sour Maraschino.
Kick the brute. Eternity
for him or his axe’s kissing me.’

Fables of Bankruptcy

It is populist and for the first five minutes fun:
each noon they lynch a banker on the square.
A bright white rope descends from an opaque cloud
and forms a noose with precisely numbered coils
to match his tens of millions. Minions cheer.
Birds beak into the limousine. Wolves drag
the banker out feet first, his leather shoes
scuffing baldly on the plaza’s cobblestones.

The hangman’s coils caress his coiffured pate,
slip carefully down, enfold his bare bull neck
and hoist him gently till his broughams wave
a metre higher than beseeching hands.

The banker’s own hands wave about his ears
then grasp the coils, do chin-ups till they tire.
Rude manual measures generally don’t last
for long with bankers. Soon the cervix lengthens.
the face goes red and black and we go home
or would do had we not all been evicted.