First, attempt your exit from the house.
Leave on a early spring afternoon –
quietly now – no need to make a fuss.
Press your door closed carefully;
no heavy snick of a lock snapped shut.
This is easing into silence – gradual and soft.
Step out into the road to find a cat waiting for you there.
Understand, then, quite quickly that there’s a knack
to walking with these fiendish beasts.
This young cat ripples in happy darkness at my feet.
First, he walks beside me,
stretching our joint shadow along the path we’re going to take.
Then he doubles back – runs gleefully towards me –
and I am forced to step above him or beside him
so we do not fall.
Often, he will turn and lift his head to mine,
talking to me before racing on ahead
on large, soft, dark paws that seem to lift him from the ground
so he is bouncing and rippling ebony all at once
and is the colour, shape and movement of a creature
other than what he is.
But he is very real. A young and vibrant animal
glossy and masculine – dark eyes, dark whiskers –
so confident in his movements (and on checking with me)
that there comes a moment when I am unsure
as to whether he is following me or I him.
This young dark happy cat threads his way and his shadow
between my feet.
It has been a long winter but now
the dry, clear road lies ahead of me
and I am ready for some space.
My stick is with me – hitting the road like an extra limb –
but in a matter of seconds there is a small purr
and a sleek black figure swerves in near me
as though my shadow is reconnecting with my feet
and he is there.
So we walk down the road together.
It is as much a quiet celebration of the day as anything else
and he is company and he is life and he is love.
(For Rabbit – the cat in question)