May 20, 2005

To My Cat with an Eating Disorder

by Alice N. Persons

FRIDAY, 20 MAY, 2005
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Poem: "To My Cat with an Eating Disorder" by Alice N. Persons from Never Say Never © Moon Pie Press. Reprinted with permission.

To My Cat with an Eating Disorder

You were thrown out of a moving vehicle
on a dirt road
in chilly winder downeast Maine,
little fur scrap, and I hope you don't
carry that memory with you,
but the hunger, the deep fear
that you'll never see food again
is still there five years later
when you are huge and sleek,
a sumo Buddha of a cat.

I've seen you, after a big meal,
heave yourself from a sound sleep,
pad into the kitchen, launch your bulk
onto the counter, and check the food supply,
then crouch there chewing and chewing,
green eyes empty, concentrating
on your burden, your compulsion,
doggedly eating, whether you want to or not.

There are stories about Holocaust or
Depression survivors whose refrigerators
and pantries are always full, just in case,
how some of them still wake in the night
and check their abundant supplies,
run their hands over the packages,
or eat without hunger, just because they can.

Cat, I stand in the dark kitchen
stroking your broad back,
wishing I could banish the fears
of one small, common creature,
those bad dreams that awaken you,
that hollow place in your memory
which can never be filled.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of novelist and short story writer Samuel Dickson Selvon, born in Trinidad, West Indies (1923). In 1950, he emigrated to England, where he wrote his first novel, A Brighter Sun (1952), the story of racial tension between black Africans and Indians living in the West Indies. It established him as a writer who employed evocative descriptions and authentic language and dialect, and explored the subjects of poverty and discrimination. These themes were continued in his 1956 novel, The Lonely Londoners, about black West Indians living in London after World War Two.

It's the birthday of detective-story writer Margery (Louise) Allingham born in London, England (1904), who is best known as the creator of the witty, bespectacled, aristocratic detective Albert Campion.

It's the birthday of historian and biographer Allan Nevins, born near Camp Point, Illinois (1890), who gained his love of history from his father, a man who did not believe in frivolous reading but had a library of more than five hundred books of economics, science, and world affairs. During his lifetime, Nevins wrote hundreds of essays and book reviews, edited seventy-five books, and wrote fifty books of his own, two of which won Pulitzer Prizes: Grover Cleveland: A Study in Courage (1933) and Hamilton Fish: The Inner Story of the Grant Administration (1937).

It's the birthday of political economist and philosopher John Stuart Mill, born in London, England (1806). He was a child prodigy who was educated by his father, a strict disciplinarian, and who, at the age of eight, was reading Aesop's Fables in the original Greek. He is best known for his defense of empiricism in his 1843 book, System of Logic, which espoused that all knowledge is based on information received through the senses and experience of the world, rather than on rational thinking. His two other famous books are On Liberty (1859), which argued for the importance of the individual, and Utilitarianism (1861). He said: "One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety-nine who have only interests."

It's the birthday of writer Honoré de Balzac, born in Tours, France (1799), who is often credited with creating realism in the novel. In 1830, he published a work under his own name that brought him fame. It was Scenes from Private Life, a series of stories about girls in conflict with parental authority. In 1835, he published one of his best works, Le Pere Goriot. His most famous work was The Human Comedy, which appeared in sixteen volumes over a period of six years. The work included thousands of different characters. The entire series contains a total of 2,470 characters who have names, and 566 without names.

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