The Witch’s Cat
by Theodora Goss
A witch’s cat isn’t always black.
Mine is an elegant tortoiseshell.
She refuses to come when I call to her,
but as soon as I start reciting a spell,
she’ll appear at the top of the stairs,
as though she was never gone at all.
Where does she go when she’s not with me?
She won’t tell me, however much I ask.
Whether for pleasure or to fulfill
some secretive, inscrutable task
given to her by Mother Night.
She simply says, “You’ve made a mistake,
Mistress mine. I was always here,”
then looks at me with those yellow eyes,
like two full moons. A witch’s cat
isn’t always truthful, but she is wise.
She knows where magical plants are found
and when the midsummer sun will rise.
She knows which toads are poisonous
and how to pronounce the ancient words,
whether Latin, Greek, or Sumerian.
She understands the weather’s moods,
and knows the way to the hidden glade
where witches meet, in the heart of the woods.
There we catch up on the latest charms,
sharing ingredients and recipes,
then dance until the moon has set,
while Mother Night walks beneath the trees,
a tall, pale woman as old as time,
whose long black hair is filled with stars.
When my cat says, “Mistress, it’s time to go,”
she climbs on the back of my broom, and we fly
over the sleeping town below,
through a purple and orange sky,
back home, where I promptly get to work,
while she curls in the armchair and sleeps all day!
A witch’s cat is never good,
nor ever entirely bad. She’s herself.
Sometimes she’ll suddenly walk through walls
or appear on the highest shelf
where I hid the cream and knock it down,
more troublesome than any elf.
But what would I do without her? Who
would translate when I summon a demon,
or frighten mice from the herbs in the pantry,
or watch over my simmering cauldron?
Or keep the loneliness away,
a magic stronger than any potion?
(The image is Woman with a Cat by Pierre-Auguste Renoir. The cat in the painting is a tabby, not a tortie, but I couldn’t find a painting of an actually tortoiseshell . . . even though I think they’re among the most beautiful cats!)