Poetry

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Musashi’s Odyssey

by Lionel E. Deimel

  

My mom and dad came into townPaw prints

To visit for a spell,

To see our house—upstairs and down—

And make sure we were well.

 

We drove around the neighborhood,

Played games, relaxed, and walked;

At restaurants, both bad and good,

We ate and laughed and talked.

 

Our entertainment Friday nightPaw prints

Was baseball, food, and brew—

An urban, major league delight,

With chips and nachos, too!

 

We had to leave late afternoon

To eat our dinner there;

Though time to go came all-to-soon,

We really didn’t care,

 

For ball games were a special treat,Paw prints

Enjoyed by one and all,

And, next to them, we liked to eat,

So, umpire, yell, “Play ball!”

 

Our cats were indoor-outdoor pets

Who came inside at night,

A practice not approved by vets

That suited them just right.

 

Cat one was Buddha, Tonkinese.Paw prints

Musashi was cat two—

Inquisitive, not quick to please,

A Burmese through-and-through.

 

It was, of course, a summer’s day,

So sunset came quite late;

The sky, though bright, was tinged with gray

And filled with clouds of slate.

 

We called the cats to come on home,Paw prints

And Buddha, as he should,

Came in, but Mushi chose to roam

About the neighborhood.

 

Again, we shouted out the door,

But no Musashi came;

With worried voice, we called once more,

Then left to see the game.

 

Arriving at the baseball park,Paw prints

We bought our food to eat;

The field was bright, but clouds were dark

As each one took his seat.

 

The anthem of our nation sung,

The contest could begin—

The pitchers hurled; the batters swung

At changeups, heat, and spin.

 

The game had not gone on too longPaw prints

When rain and hail came down;

The thunderstorm was very strong

And blanketed the town.

 

This caused a lengthy rain delay,

Yet, when the play resumed,

Nine innings could be played that day,

Though dark clouds ever loomed.

 

When back to home we headed out,Paw prints

Musashi came to mind;

He filled our thoughts with fear and doubt

About what we would find.

 

No cat was on the windowsill,

Nor by the kitchen door,

And so we stayed awake until

We couldn’t anymore.

 

We called our cat on SaturdayPaw prints

And sent out Buddha, too,

To seek Musashi, while at play,

And bring him home anew.

 

We asked the shelters and police

About what we should do;

We pled they’d watch for our Burmese

And hoped they’d follow through.

 

I made a poster and an adPaw prints

About our missing pet;

All said they thought them not too bad

For pole and Post-Gazette.

 

On every pole for blocks around,

A poster I applied.

“These are not legal if they’re found,”

Cops said, when they were spied.

 

And so, I started out and walkedPaw prints

From house to house in turn;

I showed my poster, and I talked

To see what I could learn.

 

Most talks I had were just dead ends,

But some things I found out—

Musashi had a lot of friends

I had not known about.

 

On Wednesday morn, my parents leftPaw prints

And wished us all good luck;

They hoped we weren’t of hope bereft,

Although our search was stuck.

 

The days slipped by—as slip they will—

Yet, every day at dawn,

I looked upon the windowsill,

My fleeting hope fast gone.

 

What could have happened here? we thought;Paw prints

Could he have run away?

Had all our love been all for naught?

Alas, we could not say.

 

That night, she’d heard Musashi’s cry,

The mom next door confessed;

She had not thought to question why

Our cat should be distressed.

 

Musashi might have lost his wayPaw prints

While caught out in the rain;

Why, on the porch, he did not stay

We just could not explain.

 

We wondered, was our cat purloined,

Or trapped inside a shed,

From movement, by a wound enjoined,

Or, maybe, even dead?

 

In yet another interview,Paw prints

A woman down the street

Suggested that, to follow through,

The “Cat Lady” I meet.

 

From Europe came this “Lady” hence

To residence quite near,

A trim, old farmhouse without fence,

Where art was her career.

 

She took in strays that ambled by—Paw prints

Her dog was one of these—

And so she seemed a good ally,

With feline expertise.

 

I left a poster, moving on

To places I’d not been.

Had our Musashi this way gone?

Was he close by, within?

 

Another day, my son and IPaw prints

Explored the nearby wood;

We saw no cat, though birds flew by,

And deer, while staring, stood.

 

I wasn’t ready to allow

Our cat would not be found;

I longed to hear his soft meow,

An oddly duck-like sound.

 

One day, the artist called to sayPaw prints

That, by the supermart,

She’d seen a cat that ran away

Behind a shopping cart.

 

I soon was in that parking lot,

Beside a grassy slope;

It seemed a quite unlikely spot

To kindle any hope.

 

I looked both up and down the hillPaw prints

And also left and right;

I squinted, looked again, and still

No Mushi was in sight.

 

A church atop the hill was set,

And so I went to that,

Where, briefly, with the staff I met

To ask about our cat.

 

In retrospect, I do believe,Paw prints

The cat that caused the call

Our caller did, in fact, deceive

And wasn’t ours at all.

 

The site was very far from home,

And prospects weren’t good

A cat so far away might roam

From his own neighborhood.

 

My residential interviewsPaw prints

Got farther from our street;

I sought in vain for useful clues

From those I chanced to meet.

 

One Friday, as the sky turned dark,

My “Cat” friend called to say

She’d seen Musashi in a park

A few short blocks away.

 

That park had been unknown to me,Paw prints

So out the door I flew.

Was our cat there and roaming free

Because I never knew?

 

It was a lovely little place,

With trees on either side,

With more than ample wooded space

For runaways to hide.

 

I walked around the line of treesPaw prints

And called Musashi’s name;

I called on foot and on my knees,

But no Musashi came.

 

So back across the boulevard

I trudged in dark despair;

The search was getting very hard

To carry on and bear.

 

Next day, I searched the park once morePaw prints

To quite the same effect,

And, sadly, through the kitchen door,

Came home, once I had checked.

 

I, at the kitchen counter, sat

At noon that day for lunch;

What next to do to find our cat,

I hadn’t any hunch.

 

Quite suddenly, I was agapePaw prints

And, for a moment, still,

When that familiar sable shape

Jumped on the windowsill.

 

Musashi had come back as though

He’d never been away,

As if he’d not left weeks ago,

But only yesterday.

 

I rushed to open up the door,Paw prints

And in Musashi came;

With nonchalance he crossed the floor,

His homestead to reclaim.

 

I yelled for all to come and see

Musashi had returned;

I pondered this with heartfelt glee

And wondered what he’d learned.

 

He chattered on as if to tellPaw prints

Of all that he had done—

To reassure us he’d been well

And had a lot of fun.

 

When Buddha saw his cousin-cat,

I thought he’d lick his chum;

Instead, he only hissed and spat

For days and days to come.

 

I gave Musashi tuna fish,Paw prints

His favorite before;

In no time, he had cleaned his dish

And cried for even more.

 

I hugged Musashi close to me—

He’d lost a pound or two—

But wasn’t hurt, that I could see—

A fervent prayer come true!

 

Musashi spent the night in bedPaw prints

Between my wife and me;

We wanted to allay all dread

And sweet dreams oversee.

 

Where Mushi went, we’ll never know,

Although he tried to say;

But since that time, now years ago,

He’s never run away.

 

 

Cat

 

This poem is autobiographical, and, although I took some license in a couple of places, it is, in all important particulars, true. The incidents described took place in 1994. (See “Two Cats” for more information about Musashi and Buddha, as well as other cats who later joined the family.) Musashi was named after a famous Japanese swordsman of some 400 years ago. (Musashi was fearless as a kitten.) The family’s nickname for Musashi is “Mushi.” This is not a Japanese nickname but one that we made up. The Post-Gazette, of course, is the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. There was, I think, some neighborhood hostility toward the “Cat Lady,” primarily because her animals were sometimes noisy. She was a lovely and fascinating woman from Hungary, however, and I suspect she was responsible for Musashi’s ultimate return. It is hard to believe that it was mere coincidence that he returned home after I sought him in the park. Musashi had lost about two pounds when he returned to us (20% of his body weight). He was not bedraggled, however, and he was still wearing his red collar and nametag. Musashi was a good hunter and was probably largely feeding himself. It is possible that many people had seen him without realizing that he was lost. I still wonder about Musashi’s odyssey.

This poem, probably my most ambitious to date, was written in July 2001. I have, from time to time, made minor revisions to it in an attempt to perfect it, the most recent changes having been made in March 2003. A few verses still harbor obvious metrical problems or contain clumsy lines. Not all of these can be fixed. The phrase “Cat Lady,” which I feel compelled to use because people in the neighborhood actually called her “the Cat Lady,” necessarily breaks the rhythm of a poem intended to employ a strictly iambic meter. I finessed this problem as best I could, but it remains a problem. 

By the way, an excellent essay on finding lost pets can be found on the PetRescue.Com Web site.

Musashi died on January 3, 2005. Our last day together is described in “Musashi’s Last Day.”

— LED, 10/19/2005

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