Fate of a cat


What became of the cat that was always rubbing
up against your leg? Whenever I came around, it was
always the same. Always rubbing. Always
your leg. The same leg. But one day the cat was
gone. And when I mentioned this you cited the
first law of thermodynamics then added, matter-
of-factly, that it was only a matter of time, with
that amount of friction — with that loss and gain of
heat — the cat had rubbed itself out…… Now
I find the missing cat’s face in the most unlikely
places. It has become a footprint left in clay, the sole
of an old shoe, a leaf that has blown from a garden
fire or that comes to us from some outer province of
autumn. I see the cat’s face in mud-
pool and mirror, puddle and milk bowl. Through
its eyes I can see forever. ​

Whangarei head, 1981



as I am,
fired and forged
or freshly

                                        formed —
                                        a lost cat
                                        lingers, her head
                                        an outcrop or

a brick
almost or
paving stone. Once
I had a cat
the shape

                                        of Northland —
                                        rough-cast, thrown,
                                        a reminder that the outer edge
                                        of anything is all
                                        we ever see.

Face adrift
above its mineral
body, or supping from
an earthen bowl
in kiln-light

                                        ​its sideways
                                        glance became
                                        a scarred, inconsolable
                                        face, and its face
                                        an imprint

of foot
or paw. Together
we sought the company
of smoke-like things,
of rust

                                        and rustling,
                                        Yvonne of the well-
                                        calibrated furnace, her
                                        fired-up world
                                        from which

arose this
circus of
hollowed eyes, music
of fingerprinted ears —
this allotment

                                        of earth
                                        and the one
                                        perfect afternoon of a
                                        lamentable year
                                        ​given us.



Gregory O’Brien was the 2015 Stout Memorial Fellow at Victoria University. These poems were inspired by a ceramic work made by Tony Fomision and included in the exhibition ‘Empire of Dirt’ (curated by Doris De Pont) at Objectspace, Auckland, in November/December 2015.