A Poem from the World of Cats
By Muthaffar al-Nawab
Translated by Zeena Faulk
A dark wind bellowed out destruction
as a sweet street kitty awaited nightfall,
exposing one thigh and covering the rest—-
may God protect the kitty and us—with the tail.
Summoned to the police station, the kitty mated
with the department that maintained our infra-structures.
Through a crack in the wall, she saw a nationalist he-cat,
puffing out the elegant national gas—but then came his emasculation.
She lifted a paw to hail the big “thing” and to sing,
“My beloved country. My country is the biggest.”
Day after day, the kitty laughed, but the laugh was a groan.
She lost two teeth to torture and was told
the authorities were rumored to have scabies.
The national gas leaked out of his eyes; he was silent.
It was written that the kitty stayed firm for a day or two
after her tail was cut!
The officer coughed and the investigation was called off,
and the hangman’s moustache soared upward,
and then it fell back into place. Oh, what an eructation!
What had the officer eaten? What was his rank?
So long as he had authority, the gasses in his gut had rank.
Some illuminati shyly owned that the kitty originally had no tail.
Tail, or no tail? Ranks, or no ranks? How strange!
On that biting February night,
the hangman sweet-scented his “thing,”
overdid tidying under the slacks and slicked his brows.
He laid down by his poor wife’s side
but it was impossible!
The “thing” was as uselessly soft and shrunken as the kitty’s tail.
He spat on his fingers and tried to warp his moustache—
alas! It remained downcast and didn’t rise.
He struggled right and left to revive Antar;
He smacked, he went west; reversed and went east—
alas! The damage wasn’t in the whiskers
but rather in the soul.
In a dream he saw tails, a snake, a mule emasculated.
How strange! How strange!
The misdeed with the kitty’s tail, oh officer, was the cause.
The morning breeze gently blew through
a street that was empty save a dumpster and a respected tomcat,
who saw the kitty exiting the State’s door after a nightshift.
He unbent his posture, gave up his breakfast,
and stretched his whiskers out to pick up news.
He climbed over the dumpster and went weak at the knees.
He closed one eye and called on God for help,
“Nonsense! Impossible! She has no tail to conceal her lady parts!”
Carefully, he got nearer and said, “Meow, my lady.”
The kitty held her tongue and wished the ground
would crack open and swallow her.
Melody and eastern lust shone in his eyes.
“Meow, dude! Meow, precious,” she said.
“My tail, my lord! Meow be to God!”
“To him thanks and praise are overdue.
Glad your head wasn’t severed, my lady.
It’s a sign of the end times, go hide—
a rocket of filth is nearing.”
Then he saw the hangman unhappily rambling,
his eyes downcast, and his walk
The tomcat ran behind the barrel, belched,
and showed the hangman his manhood
as he swayed around like a dancer.
“Oh, meow! Oh, meow!
An eye, oh hangman, for an eye.”
Madness all at once overtook the hangman,
who fired a full round into the tomcat’s head.
The tomcat was killed, may he rest now in peace.
The state press said: “not killed, simply passed on.”
His obituary was pasted on walls, doors, and dumpsters.
“The forgiven one was crushed in the bloom of youth.”
The Chairman of the Rats’ Dumpster Guild mourned him,
and preacher after preacher followed.
The neighborhood kitties cried, “Oh, beloved tomcat!”
A tailless kitty wailed,
and the prison officer’s penalty came to a trim of his whiskers.
May he rest in peace, that tomcat we buried.
His funeral is to be held at the neighborhood dumpster, inshallah.
Signs of the end of times, the books said:
What a strange land!
Muthaffar al-Nawab is one of Iraq’s most prominent poets and political critics.
Zeena Faulk is an Iraqi-American literary translator and translation studies researcher. She is currently a PhD candidate in Translation Studies at the University of Warwick.