I love this poem so much, that I put it up in one of the student common rooms. What usually is put up on that board is what to do during a fire drill, about guest lectures, student parties and stuff like that. The poem is still there (six months later), and sometimes I can see a student stop to read it.
'Cat in an Empty Apartment'
Die—you can't do that to a cat.
Since what can a cat do
in an empty apartment?
Climb the walls?
Rub up against the furniture?
Nothing seems different here,
but nothing is the same.
Nothing has been moved,
but there's more space.
And at nighttime no lamps are lit.
Footsteps on the staircase,
but they're new ones.
The hand that puts fish on the saucer
has changed, too.
Something doesn't start
at its usual time.
Something doesn't happen
as it should.
Someone was always, always here,
then suddenly disappeared
and stubbornly stays disappeared.
Every closet has been examined.
Every shelf has been explored.
Excavations under the carpet turned up nothing.
A commandment was even broken,
papers scattered everywhere.
What remains to be done.
Just sleep and wait.
Just wait till he turns up,
just let him show his face.
Will he ever get a lesson
on what not to do to a cat.
Sidle toward him
as if unwilling
and ever so slow
on visibly offended paws,
and no leaps or squeals at least to start.
-- Wislawa Szymborska
I found this poem on Minstrels. Here's what they write:
(Translated from the Polish by Joanna Maria Trzeciak)
In newsgroups devoted to pets, the passing of a beloved cat is often
mentioned to a lot of sympathy. But often it is the owner who dies while the
cat is the survivor, though this eventuality has never been posted to my
This is a wonderful poem by one of my favorites, Wyslawa Szymborska, the
Polish poet who won the Nobel a few years ago. It is just like her to take
an unexpected point of view, a little thing perhaps, and open a whole world.
Add this to the latest poems on cats.
Biography of Szymborska and of Trzeciak.