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Barnyard Cats

by Morrigan

I keep hoping this will be over,
but I remember how fruitlessly
barnyard cats swipe at barn swallows.

I used to feed the cats supper's leftovers,
and they would crowd the porch step,
coming hungry and empty-pawed.

I asked papa why he kept the cats
if they could not catch field mice.
It was their job, as papa's job was to harvest corn.

He sat on his stool, smoking his pipe.
He watched the oak leaves sway in September
afternoon sunlight. A black cat rubbed against his calf.

You never know when they'll bring you a rat.

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292 Reviews

Points: 21599
Reviews: 292

Sun Aug 23, 2020 2:43 pm
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whatchamacallit wrote a review...

Hi Morrigan! Your poem has been in the green room for a while so I thought I'd drop by with a review :)

I like how you use cats hunting for mice and rats and birds as a metaphor ~ and not only that, it doesn't feel like it's talking about ruthless hunting, it feels more like it's talking about not being able to do something / not achieving goals, which is a different spin than most cat & bird metaphors - so I really like that you have a fresh and unexpected take on that idea! I also like that the imagery family/metaphor stays consistent throughout, it means I really get to enjoy and think about that single comparison you're making without being distracted by little different-imagery tangents.

For some reason your use of the word "fruitlessly" in the first stanza doesn't sit right with me in the context of the rest of the poem - I'm not sure if it's because it brings to mind an image of fruit trees, which is sort of disconnected from the cat & barn imagery, but I just don't feel like it fits in quite right. I think something more like "futilely" or "in vain" might fit in a bit better. But this also could just be me, so if you feel like it works then that's good too!

Another thing that didn't quite sit right with me was that a lot of lines start with something similar to "subject + verb". "I keep", "but I remember", "I used", "I asked", "It was", "He sat", "He watched". There's nothing wrong with this, really, just to me it got a bit repetitive and I think I would've liked more variety in sentence structure. If you're going for that structure on purpose, for emphasis, I understand why you'd do that; it just doesn't work for me personally. (It also has the effect of me reading it in a stop-and-start flow ~ not sure if that's intended but thought I'd let you know.)

One last critique I have is that the first line ("I keep hoping this will be over,") implies that the narrator is going through something, but after that line we are immersed completely in the cat metaphor and I almost feel like that idea is disconnected from the rest of the poem. (Until we get to the final italicized line, which to me feels like a piece of advice their father is giving them about the real world / the thing they wish was over.) It'd be interesting if we knew a little bit more about what the narrator wants to be over, or at very least if we had some non-metaphorical stuff sprinkled throughout that ties back to that beginning line, if that makes sense. Right now I feel a bit like, I know the narrator is going through something but I don't have a clue what so I can't really empathize with them about it.

I do like how that final line is a stanza all on its own and italicized; that works really well for emphasis since you haven't italicized/separated anything else. It's also a bit unexpected that instead of talking about the barn swallows or birds from earlier in the poem, you're talking about rats now - it complements the idea of surprise in that line ("you'll never know...") because we, as the reader, are surprised by the change to a rat.

Overall, I like the concept of this poem a lot! The main things I think could be worked on are sentence structure and more about the narrator's problem / thing that they want to be over, but I do love the imagery family and the final line works really well to bring the poem to a strong finish.

I hope this is useful and if you've got any questions / things that you'd like to talk about in this review, feel free to reach out!


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51 Reviews

Points: 3844
Reviews: 51

Thu Aug 13, 2020 2:09 am
VioletFantasy wrote a review...

VioletFantasy here for a short review. This was a really sweet poem! I am a crazy cat lady in-training, so the title immediately piqued my interest. I was not disappointed when I started reading either! It felt like I was on that porch, talking about cats with my father. You painted such a vivid picture that it makes it seem real. What is real is your talent. Anyone who can turn something so simple into a beautiful poem is an absolutely amazing writer. I cannot find a single mistake in your writing. Keep up the wonderful work!!

"We're just all nosy little busybodies."
— SirenCymbaline the Kiwi