Black Cats – Áine Halligan

Felis catus is man’s fair-weather friend,

You may have heard.

Especially those with coal-dust coats,

For man is loath to pass their way.

Those lively bundles of spirit and void

Soak up worries, hopes and dreams

And use their sleek black coats to hide the stains

Of curses and boons.

Felis catus fortuna

Rough-and-tumble Branwen was born one crisp October dawn,

Coat as dark as a crow and a fairpatch atop her heart.

She was perhaps too rough and when she tumbled

Into a river she thought her days done.

Fortunately she was found by a doctor,

And since Branwen was a cath ddu she

Valued the life of the poor fortuna.

Proud, observant Sachiko was born one crisp October dawn,

One paw raised above the ground.

She observed the masses from her perch

Atop a pile of boxes labeled “This Side Up.”

Fortunately a young man saw her beckon,

And since Sachiko was a kuroneko he

Gifted to his girlfriend the poor fortuna.

Pure-hearted Branwen lived with the doctor

And kept good health at home while her mistress treated those afar. 

The doctor never caught cold as rain fell, though unsurprisingly;

For each time the doctor would find her umbrella stand upended. 

Joyful Sachiko lived with a young couple,

Content to keep watch as they carved their own path.

They saved money for their wedding til one day they found

Their beloved pet holding ten-thousand yen in her mouth.

You would not see lively Branwen sitting still,

Save for once a week in her master’s place of work,

Where children could card through her feather-soft fur

And she’d take in their wants and their woes.

You would not see watchful Sachiko close her eyes,

Save for one special day in her master’s life

Where she rested between a new groom and new bride

And she could take in their hopes and fears. 

The black Felis catus brings blessings,

You see,

If fed the right superstition 

To that coal-dust fur

Those portentous bundles of spirit and void

Take in thoughts of love and fear

And use their sleek black coats to hide the stains

Of curses and boons.

Felis catus fortuna

Black Cats. Author illustration.