Cat's Cradle

Our kittens delight their fleeting youth with balls
of wool or string to chase through cosy halls,
to pounce on plants that cling to table-tops
then gorge on leaves like locusts stripping crops.

Young Bethlehem cats chase shadow-mice through the shells of houses,
Ramla cats still hide in holes in spattered red-rag blouses,
Tulkaram cats feast on dead flesh that slops out from foundations,
while Jenin cats await the rescue of the late United Nations.

And when they’ve spent their hours in kittens’ games
to pounce and leap and pad the luscious flowers hiding mines
or play with string or hand-grenades, the claims
of each hot-smelling clot of ripped-out crimson Columbines,
in time are paid in full by a generation:
a glass of honeyed-milk; a bag of blood – poured out in libation.

Nigel Holt

If you've any comments on this poem, Nigel Holt would be pleased to hear from you.