Cat a Gory by Penn Kemp

Cat a Gory

November-27-15: I come upon mom and dad in the living room of my childhood home, sharing something private. Dad’s chest is bare, revealing two huge breasts. I don’t know how to respond, so I joke: “Lucky you. Now you have your own breasts to play with.” Neither parent replies.

My baby sister is just a few months old, but she is precocious. “Hi, Jenny,” she greets me in a high treble. When I correct her, she points to herself and says another coherent phrase. She has been lying alone in her bassinet all night, so she must be wet, cold and hungry. I bring her in to mom, who’s lying in her bedroom, sleeping off labour by herself. The poor baby seems to dissolve into a puddle in the bed, with swirls of scarlet in a viscous liquid.

Though it’s night, I lead mom by the hand to the swamp outside our door. We traipse through, ankle-deep in mud. On the far side of the pond, I glimpse the shadows of several deer. They soon materialize into grazing animals that are aware of us but undisturbed, lifting their heads from the grass to listen. On the green hill high above them roam two adult tigers, a pair. They are ready to pounce on a deer but their prey swiftly bounds away and vanishes.

Next door, I enter the home of several well-known and out-spoken feminists. Reclining on opposite couches, they are preparing strategies for tomorrow. November 28 is the day protesting violence against women. Raising their heads from paperwork, the women welcome me. The senior feminist advises me to go back next door to my mother, given the recent death of my baby sister. I’m leaving when a baby tiger with huge paws enters the room from outside; I don’t know how. The women are too alarmed to deal with the creature so I take a broom and try to usher him out the kitchen door. I use the broom like a hockey stick to manoeuvre him toward the door but any touch seems to be too much, poor thing. The tiger cub dissolves into a puddle of a creamy substance into which scarlet blood is swirled.


November 28: Puma On The Hill

We are staying at a lovely cottage in the woods with my young son Jake and his friend. I’ve asked Jake to clean up the mess left by the firewood we’ve piled in the living room for the acorn fireplace at the centre. He’d rather go for a hike with his pal so I am left to sweep, feeling disconsolate at being alone. It’s so much more fun to work with other people than by oneself. But I stroll out with Jake and his friend along the boardwalk to the village centre.

On the green hill above the village square, I notice a kind of pen that looks like it might be a petting zoo. Pointing it out to the boys, I lead them up the hill to see the deer. The animals come and go, not enclosed, because one side is open to the hill. Inside, tourists wander along with the animals to inspect the stools where food has been laid out. There are stacks of hay as well as pastries and cakes that may be day-olds from the village bakery. Are they set out for the people or the animals?

Suddenly, a cinnamon-coloured wild ram bursts from the forest to careen down the hill. We soon see why. A magnificent male lion with a huge aureole of mane appears at the edge of the forest, the way wild animals do, suddenly there. The lion surveys the green. He is hunting. With a mighty swipe of his paw, he downs a puma and pins it, killing it. He takes one bite, evidently not hungry, and stalks down the hill. I shout at Jake and his pal to retreat to the village square: “Walk, don’t run!” I cry, thinking that running will trigger the lion’s instinct to chase. Jake’s pal zigzags all over the hill but reaches the village safely, as we all do.

Now that we’re okay, the boys boast of their bravery. Jake remarks that the lion took a bite out of the puma’s breast. I think it was closer to the tail. We did both note that the lion’s chomp was a token to power, not hunger, expressing his supremacy.

The dream of a lion killing a puma on a hill turns out to be precognitive. Today I’m reading Ronald Wright’s The Gold Eaters. He describes the Inca Manku sitting surrounded in beleaguered splendor, stroking the heads of his two pet pumas. Is the Inca the lion then, the top of the food chain? In the dream, I’m impressed by the lion’s mane that glows around him like a sun’s rays in gold: a perfect symbol of the Incan Empire. Spoiler alert: our young interpreter’s lost family, it turns out, is hiding from Spanish conquistadores in Puma Hill.


Sunday night, November 29, Ira Glass’s This American Life reflects the dream of my bloody sister. The show is about regrets. We listen to a story of a girl of nine, the age I was in the dream above. For some alone time, her parents have sent her and her baby sister out to clean the floor of the garage attached to the house. Irritated that her sister isn’t helping, she bashes the five-year-old over the head with a broom. The girl is horrified at all the blood pouring down her sister’s head. That doesn’t stop her from lying. I think wryly of my little brother, who was five to my nine years.




Activist poet, performer and playwright Penn Kemp is the League of Canadian Poets Life Member and winner of their 2015 Spoken Word Artist of the year award. She is the inaugural Poet Laureate for London Ontario, with twenty-six books of poetry and drama published; six plays and ten CDs produced as well as award-winning video-poems.  As Writer-in-Residence for Western University, her project was the DVD, “Luminous Entrance: a Sound Opera for Climate Change Action”, Pendas Productions. Penn has performed and published her work world-wide, often as writer-in residence in Canada, Brazil, New York and India.

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