"A falcon struck upon the snow,
As if a fatal bell had chimed
In woods as white as mistletoe.
His actions were as finely timed
As dances graceful and precise
About the sistrum and the lyre
In lands of gold, whose blood is fire
In snowfields where the blood is ice.
"He painted neither stain nor streak
Of crimson, but each fan-tail plume
That brushed the snow — his claws and beak,
Made rays, like falling stars of doom.
The graven hieroglyphic lines
Told nothing, and I had to guess
At either failure or success
Above the creek, below the pines."
Beyond the window where I sat,
The sun turned molten as I told
My story to a little cat
Whom I had saved from snow and cold.
"You know the spot — I found you there.
The object of his swoop was small.
It did not leave a track at all,
No more a trace than silent prayer.
"Now, you are fierce, within our house —
A moonlit night will see you prowl
Along the walls, to catch a mouse:
You are as cruel as any owl.
She does her best to light your way,
But in the hours of starry blue,
The moon is kind to owls, too,
Where mice and careless kittens play."
"Is that why I must stay indoors?
Meow, meow!" cried Emily.
"The world is red with many wars,
But you are very good to me."
I loved her so — this kitten-child
In refuge from the savage tooth,
Yet I had kept her from the truth:
I'd seen her mother in the wild.
And then I felt the pearly claws
Close round my flesh, and pierce my leg.
"I see the prints of Mother's paws —
I'm sure that she has come to beg!
Mother!" she cried — and then the crown
Upon the mountains sank from sight
Behind a misty veil of white,
Because the snow was falling down.
"Hush now," said I, and stroked her fur
Of marble white and granite grey.
"Let's light the window-lamp for her —
No cat should be a nightbird's prey.
Before those footprints fill with snow
(The way an hourglass fills with sand),
You'll see her feeding from my hand,
And lolling where you frisk and purr,
And basking in the fire's glow."
© 2010 by Ellin Anderson. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be copied or used in any way without written permission from the author.