The Flying Cat


Never, in all your career of worrying, did you imagine
what worries could occur concerning the flying cat.
You are traveling to a distant city.
The cat must travel in a small box with holes.

            Will the baggage compartment be pressurized?
            Will a soldier's footlocker fall on the cat during take-off?
            Will the cat freeze?

You ask these questions one by one, in different voices
over the phone. Sometimes you get an answer,
sometimes a click.
Now it's affecting everything you do.
At dinner you feel nauseous, like you're swallowing
at twenty thousand feet.
In dreams you wave fish-heads, but the cat has grown propellors,
the cat is spinning out of sight!

            Will he faint when the plane lands?
            Is the baggage compartment soundproofed?
            Will the cat go deaf?

"Ma'am, if the cabin weren't pressurized, your cat would explode."
And spoken in a droll impersonal tone, as if
the explosion of cats were another statistic!

Hugging the cat before departure, you realize again
the private language of pain. He purrs. He trusts you.
He knows little of planets or satellites,
black holes in space or the weightless rise of fear.


Naomi Shihab Nye, Words Under the Words: Selected Poems, The Eighth Mountain Press, 1995.