Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Chaz: Cat of Destiny, a poem by Peter Nicholls

My Boss sent me this poem after receiving it from a friend of his, Peter Nicholls. After I read it, I contacted the author, and asked if I could post it here, because reading it, well, truth can hit you like that sometimes. I've never read anything that so completely summed up not only what it is to love a Bengal, but what a Bengal IS, and also, what a Bengal might feel like.

If I had it in me to be as fine a poet as Mr Nicholls, I would have written this. Every word is perfect.

The Blog today is dedicated to Bengal Reilly (RIP) and to anyone who has ever lived with and loved, or lost, a Bengal Cat.

I am grateful to Mr Peter Nicholls for letting me post it, and to Kimm Schroeder for the photos of the Bengals who live with me, Magic, Venus and Mim.

Chaz: Cat of Destiny

It’s not his fault
That brutality is the imperative
Pulsing in his blood.
He’s just a cat, not even very big.
Perhaps it seemed a good idea at the time,
Refreshing the essence of cattishness
By backbreeding with the feral
Leopard Cat of the subcontinent.
Fucking cat breeders playing God.

The irony is that it worked.
Bengal cats, as they are known,
Are cleverer than other cats
(By maybe 100%),
Loyal and true
And loving too.

If one or both our dogs
Each one eight times his weight
Gets rough with him
Chaz smartly boxes their ears.
There’s brave for you.

Chaz has a proud ideal of service
And leaves dead rats as gifts upon the floor,
And for
Sprays bitter smelling urine upon my sister’s computer.

Veterinarian and furniture replacement bills
In a bad year cost more than five thousand dollars,
The same ballpark, say, as paying the bill
For sending a child to Scotch College

It’s Nature not Nurture
That made Chaz destructive and nearly broke him
Many times:
Sprained limbs, a broken pelvis, bite wounds everywhere,
Ageing unhappy pugilist,
He doesn’t understand
Why he’s this way.
Fucking cat breeders playing God.

When he likes me he sits upon my knee
And when he loves me,
He sinks his teeth into my arm.

God knows, males have a record of violence,
But it’s deeper than that:
His balls have been cut off,
He’s been injected with enough female hormones
To grow tits on an elephant.
still aggressive, territorial
And punitive
And gets beaten up by the neighbour’s tom,
Twice his size, half his age,
On a weekly basis.

Weary and staggering he still won’t leave The Fight Club,
Cannot ever retire.

He used to belong to my dear sister,
Who, in a nursing home with a broken mind,
Is living in a whirlwind of amnesias
Forgetting nearly everything.
still asks after Chaz every time she sees us.

To understand the place of cats like Chaz
Upon the spectrum of Free Will to Destiny,
From pastoral to
film noir,
I might turn to fiction-makers for children
Who often see these things with clarity.

Take George Miller’s film
Pig in the City.

In this, the Christ-Like pig
Saves a pit bull dog from drowning,
And makes him a disciple. The dog says:
“I have a professional obligation
To be malicious.” Pig:
“Then you should change jobs.”
Dog: “No I can’t, it’s in the blood you see,
We were once warriors…a murderous shadow
Lies hard across my soul.”

The best portrait of Chaz is in a kids’ book
By my friend Diana, who never met him.
The Lives of Christopher Chant the Temple Cat
Is brought to Earth, and terrifies all he meets
Both good and bad. He saves the universe.
His characteristic speech is
A bell-like Wong! Wong!

And Chaz? He knows his mind’s not right.
If he could do a self analysis
And synopsize his life, his usual cry of Wong
Both querulous and questioning would be changed
To Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

Fucking cat breeders playing God.
If it comes to that:
Fucking God.

By Peter Nicholls

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At 20:36 Blogger karen said...

Lorraine, that's gorgeous, but way too true.

At 20:44 Blogger Dragonsally said...

This resonates for so many breeds of other animals too.
Well said Mr Nicholls.

beautiful photos too

At 20:45 Blogger Jane said...

Oh my. Moving and beautiful. Makes me wish I was at home to give Susan and Indy a big hug. Though they're not Bengals...

At 20:46 Blogger Jane said...


At 21:15 Blogger dabbler said...

Made me both laugh and cry. Temple cat indeed.

At 22:28 Blogger ariandalen said...

The last line pretty much says it all.

Unfortunately, it says it all for the situation in Ohio, too. ::sigh::

At 00:09 Blogger spacedlaw said...

That is a most excellent description of the Bengals and sadly a little too true for entire comfort.
But I'll refer my freinds who ask what is a bengal to that page too.

At 01:02 Blogger Marjorie said...

That's beautiful (and he is right about Throgmorton, the Temple Cat, too)
Thank you for sharing

At 09:14 Blogger Fablo said...

It was a little too true, every word. Every time I look at Magic, those are the thoughts I've had. He doesn't understand WHY he is this way.

I wanted Reilly's owners to see this too, and know, it wasn't their fault. Bengals are going to be Bengals.

WHy has my type gone all small?

At 09:26 Blogger bengalgirl said...

Beautiful poem and while this may be true of an early generation bengal or an unsocialized cat of any or no particular breed, I do not believe it is true for the typical bengal cat that is not early generation and that has been socialized. Bengals are people cats, sweet and loving. They do do mischievous things similar to what any kitten would do but they do it also when they are adult. They are active and fun-loving and not in the least little bit mean or dangerous. So readers enjoy the poem for being a great poem but realize the poem does not describe a typical bengal cat.

At 09:30 Blogger vampi said...


At 09:32 Blogger Fablo said...

I agree with what Janet says, completely, most Bengals are NOT like Chaz (or Magic) and the later gen socialized Bengals are wonderful kitties.

But there IS that element to them, and it can come out, and it IS something anyone thinking about buying a Bengal should KNOW before they do.

Anyone wanting to Foster, now, or adopt, well, that's different. We're here to teach you all you need to know.

At 11:16 Blogger Pi R Squared said...

Thank you for the poem (and I learned a new word as well: lagniappe!)

Love the pics of the Bengals...esp. the third one...the paw from above!

And how is Mim w/ her pee problem? Has the Leopard Lounge helped w/ that?

At 12:35 Blogger Jess said...

Wonderful poem. Yes, and yes, and right on, brother.

Yeah, the Ohio thing: three major zoos within spitting distance and the poh-lice decide to go out with semiautomatic rifles, and night vision goggles, to plug the Vicious Beasts before one of them breaks into a house to eat a child. Well done, my home state! Forward-thinking as usual.

Sorry. I'm ranting. I'll go.


At 12:45 Blogger vampi said...

ah, but jess i don't think it's as clear as that. we don't train our police in wild animal care and tracking. that is a populated area, and these animals are dangerous and it was night time. I saw at least one report where they tried to tranq some of the animals but the tranqs were ineffective and just angered the beasts making them even more dangerous.

the situation is unfortunate and heartbreaking, but i don't think it was easy for the police to do what they did. the blame lies with the idiot who housed them then let them go, not the police.

the news is so depressing.

At 15:19 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not to sound lazy but can someone please tell me who Reilly the Bengal cat is ? I take it from the poem he was a rescue bengal cat that just recently died or was put down because of issues that he could not help. I can't find him on the blogand I don't follow twitter to well.
Also awesome poem, human kind should not keep wild animals. Their is a reason why they are wild, and creating hybrids is something no breeder who truly loves cats really should do, because they so many of the early generations do suffer. I love bengals as I do with several other breeds, but their are too many animals of all kinds be they cat, dog, rabbit, or even chicken to go out their and breed them so you can have a designer animal. So many are put down, that I rather adopt from a shelter and save two lives. If you think on how screwed up breeding designer dogs and cats are. Breeding chickens.....oh boy. You create real frankenstein's that way that can out do any dog or cat deformity a human loves in them.

At 15:38 Blogger FabulousLorraine said...

Kit, I never blogged Reilly, he was a Bengal to of my Derby Sisters adopted when he lost his home. Sadly, about 6 weeks after they got him, he popped a screen and got out.

They found him an hour later, hit by a car.

He was very loved.

At 15:50 Blogger Jane said...

I also wondered what had happened. So sad when they get out and can't get home :-(

At 19:56 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh that is a shame Lorraine, I am so sorry for that to have happened. For both Reilly and your Derby sisters.

At 19:56 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh that is a shame Lorraine, I am so sorry for that to have happened. For both Reilly and your Derby sisters.

At 06:59 Blogger Cecily said...

Pi- Me too! I love it when art leads to learning something new. :-)

That is very sad about Reilly. :-(

At 22:30 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wistful smiles and a couple of belly laughs reading the poem, and a sad smile still lingers. Good one.

At 07:13 Blogger Ali Trotta said...

finally catching up to this -- and that poem is fucking brilliant. Also, beautiful pictures.

At 07:36 Blogger Fablo said...

It's Bout Day!!!!!!!

That's what I've got!

At 01:59 Blogger Marjorie said...

Looking forward to reading all about the bout, in due course!

At 00:01 Blogger Chantrelle said...

How was the bout?!

At 17:13 Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your boss' work, and followed your blog from his (because you, too, are facinating.) Then I caught sight of this in the Flickr random feed -Leopard Lounge and now the interwebs seem much smaller!

At 07:14 Blogger LihuaEmily said...

Sorry it's taken me so long to get here ...

It's cool how that poem is both perfectly concise and perfectly thorough.

At 21:39 Blogger One Sock Short said...

A poem to think about. And how gorgeous are those photos!

Much whirlwind here, but need to go to bed. Stupid hamster wheel brain woke me up at 3:00 and kept on spinning.

{{Hugs}} to all my dear Fiends.

At 17:18 Blogger tom said...

ah, Christopher Chant - a Chrestomanci novel by Diana Wynne Jones - a good novel. A good cat.

At 12:35 Blogger vampi said...

i, um, took a few pictures at an event last night they are here

At 12:47 Blogger Chantrelle said...

My god that woman looks so damn good in underwear ;-)

Thanks for the pics and videos vampi! I'll see them on Wed and Fri..can't wait!

Hope everyone had a fantabulous halloween! Ben had a blast, I scared a ton of kids in my dragon costume...all around a success!

At 12:53 Blogger vampi said...

i think the best part was watching one smile while the other was doing their thing. too damn cute they are.

At 13:32 Blogger Marjorie said...

Those pictures are great, Vampi - it looks as if it was a fantastic evening!

At 15:16 Blogger Cecily said...

I remembering watching those smiles at the Housing Works event in NYC two years back. It is a beautiful thing to witness true love.

And the pics! OMG I LOVE RtutuD2!

At 16:20 Blogger Pi R Squared said...

Was at the Neil and Amanda show myself on Halloween as well (and got to meet Vampi!) She got far better pictures than I did. (You know you need a new camera when the phone in front of you is taking better pics!) Anyway, the show was wonderful! Took a friend who had neither read Neil nor heard Amanda (I know! Can you imagine?!?) And she was pretty bowled over by the experience.
Neil and Amanda are very sweet together...and one thing I'll say, I had never seen Amanda in person (though I've been a fan) and she is absolutely magnetic. And Mr. Neil? I could listen to him read forever!

At 17:28 Blogger FabulousLorraine said...

Glad you had fun at the show, my Fiends! I hear very good things about it.

Speaking of shows, if only you knew what I went thru for that HAGGIS! Took to calling it "The Little Haggis That Could" and it ate my life for a while there.

I really need to blog more, don't ? I have been very lax in writing, but things are a tad crazed... Soon, promise!

Nathilie is here and having a fine time. I think. Took her to wal mart today which she liked. I think. Made her watch a lot of tv. Which she didn't like. I'm pretty sure but I LIKE bad tv...

She gets to see Derby practice tonight and skate again herself tomorrow!

At 17:42 Blogger vampi said...

i was wondering if this was a great big hassle for you.

oh fun that Nathalie is visiting. is it winter there? i see all this complaining about white stuff falling from the sky, but it's so hard to comprehend here.

I actually do miss living somewhere with all 4 seasons. snow isn't bad in moderation. i do mourn all of the fall that will be missed this year. there is just something special about the leaves turning, and early snow ruins it by knocking all the leaves off while green. it also ruins the crunchy dry leave rustling and crunching. i miss that too :)

At 17:44 Blogger Chantrelle said...

Q, give Nathalie a hug for me...Nathalie, give Q a hug for me :)

I don't do seasons. I'm fine with the seasons here being sunny, foggy and rainy...sometimes chilly, sometimes warm. It varies day to day no matter the season. Never boring but never extreme.

I am so buried in work so I"m here, commenting...and on twitter...what am i thinking!?

At 18:49 Blogger Kat said...

Wong, indeed.

I am really, really, torn about continuing to force Sampah to be an indoor cat, and despite this latest story of Reilly, I struggle.

I do not have the financial or physical resources to make a Leopard Lounge in my yard, and my Leopard wants Out. He came from Out, a year and change ago, at about a year and a half old. I hoped he would accept being indoors, in time. But once again, Fall arrives, and all he does is cry. He quiets only when being petted or played with with the feather-onna-string.

I grew up with indoor-outdoor cats. Some were lost. One lived to the ripe old age of 18. But my cats, for the past decade, have been kept in. It's safer. One got out a screen and was never seen again. I like to think he melted into the woods, fae thing that he was. I know his likely fate was much less noble. It's been ... 7, maybe 8 years now? I still dream about him. Cancer claimed his brother, too young at 11. But he died at home, comfortable as he could be when it was time for the vet's house call.

But these, these were all just your run of the mill mutt cats. Noble, creatures in their own right, but far enough removed from their wild ancestors to be content batting jingling fleece balls about, happy gnawing on brooms. These were no Leopards.

Sampah is Bored. And he cries. And I don't know what to do for him, other than give him the freedom to come and go as he pleases, knowing the high price we may pay. Is his happiness worth that? I don't know. I feel like I'm imprisoning him. Wong, indeed.


At 07:33 Blogger spacedlaw said...

My cats go in and out. And yes it is terribly dangerous but I don't feel I can keep them locked in just for my happiness (and it is also not practical at all in summer, when all the windows and doors are open - sometimes neighbourhood cats sneak in too.
A leopard lounge would be great but our garden isn't big enough for that.

At 10:23 Blogger Pi R Squared said...

I miss seasons terribly out here. The crunchy leaves, the baring branches against slate skies...I've kept my wool duster (though it's wrapped up and never been worn.) I miss wearing turtlenecks and sleeves that reach my knuckles...miss the passing of snow that leaves the neighborhood looking like a newly iced cake. (Everyone tells me I can drive to see the snow, but since I was young, snow just doesn't count unless it falls on one's house!) Oh, I manage! I put autumnal pics on my desktop and enjoy the chill early in the morning...and giggle at all the locals in their fleece once the temps hit the 60's. (OMG! It's like, Cold!) So gotta love So Cal!

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