I have a cat whose foot-pads I dye with henna
before I put henna on my own newborns.
Then I tie cowrie shells to her collar
to repel the harm of evil eyes.
Each day, before I feed my family, I see that she gets
our choicest meats and purest waters.
The playful thing. When she sees
my face contorted in a frown,
sometimes she sings, sometimes she dances,
sparing no exertion for my diversion’s sake.
I care nothing for the fire’s warmth when she lies with me
in the chill of winter’s longest nights.
When I give her scratches, she gives me licks
with a tongue toothed like the surface of a file.
If I avoid her, she fawns on me,
wheedling with her little high-pitched moans.
If I give her trouble she will show me her claws,
a sight that gives the eyes no pleasure.
When she plays with a mouse, she is at her saltiest
for she puts him through “humiliating punishment.” *
When he faints from terror, she busies herself
in batting him awake with a left and a right.
She teases him with feigned inattention, then
swoops like a falcon when he tries to creep away.
Just when he dares hope for peace from her,
those hopes are dashed with a serpent’s liveliness.
In this way do the decrees of fate ruin a man
and finish him with a cut to the aorta,
just when, amid the lively gathering,
he takes the cup of destiny from a server.
– Abu ‘Amir al-Fadl ibn Isma’il al-Tamimi al-Jurjani
translated by David Larsen