From Pine View Farm

A Poem, Not by Henry Gibson 0

This poem by Alastair Read was in the preface to a slim volume about DNA which was part of my tenth grade biology class. The class sucke–was less than desirable, as the teacher taught it as if we were college students, which we weren’t.

But I’ve never forgotten the first verse of the poem. (Attribution.)

    Curiosity may have killed the cat; more likely
    the cat was just unlucky, or else curious
    to see what death was like, having no cause
    to go on licking paws, or fathering
    litter on litter of kittens, predictably.

    Nevertheless, to be curious
    is dangerous enough. To distrust
    what is always said, what seems
    to ask odd questions, interfere in dreams,
    leave home, smell rats, have hunches
    do not endear cats to those doggy circles
    where well-smelt baskets, suitable wives, good lunches
    are the order of things, and where prevails
    much wagging of incurious heads and tails.
    Face it. Curiosity
    will not cause us to die–
    only lack of it will.
    Never to want to see
    the other side of the hill
    or that improbable country
    where living is an idyll
    (although a probable hell)
    would kill us all.
    Only the curious
    have, if they live, a tale
    worth telling at all.

    Dogs say cats love too much, are irresponsible,
    are changeable, marry too many wives,
    desert their children, chill all dinner tables
    with tales of their nine lives.
    Well, they are lucky. Let them be
    nine-lived and contradictory,
    curious enough to change, prepared to pay
    the cat price, which is to die
    and die again and again,
    each time with no less pain.
    A cat minority of one
    is all that can be counted on
    to tell the truth. And what cats have to tell
    on each return from hell
    is this: that dying is what the living do,
    that dying is what the loving do,
    and that dead dogs are those who do not know
    that dying is what, to live, each has to do.


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