NOT GIVEN, BUT GIFTED: 4 poems from The Cat Prince by Michael Pedersen

The Cat Prince

I am the Cat Prince I declare,
already on all fours, already balls naked
in the house of Hastie, where there’s Adam
(Hastie), Daniel & me—the Cat Prince. 

We’re boyhood budbursts, twelve years
of silly in us. Adam laughs frantic 
gasps, guffaws, then pegs it
to his bedroom anticipating the chase. 

Daniel, wavering between cat & laddie, 
compañero & fugitive, succumbs 
to the gnostic glamour—strips
for a full feline transformation. 

Down to our little furs, little bloods, 
ready to breenge past the chide 
of absent classmates, who might well 
hear of this and smite us with shame. 

We are cuddle kings hankering 
for Adam’s adulation—all moggy moxie 
we embrace the cat life, vow 
inurement to the side-effects: 

carpet burns, wind-lashed pimpling; 
the sacrifice of language in each 
falsetto yowl. As hunters we’re tasked 
by the Creator: our gaze 

a crosshair; our pounce a ripple 
of bravura. Who else so guilefully stalks 
sunbeams? We’d do well here
—it’s those damn cats again 

the neighbours would learn to yawp, 
as I raced by with a robin redbreast 
between my jaws & Daniel finished shitting 
in their rhubarb patch. It’s convenient 

not to think of the killer in us,
holding back our purr, assassin still.
As we coil our new cat bodies to a spring,
Adam clambers feart atop his bed. 

What happens next is louder 
than we hoped for. Adam’s mum, startled 
by the cacophony, arrives then screams, 
curtailing the playdate. Later that night, 

she calls my mum concerned. 
Though my mum never mentions this. 
I can only assume she was wise to it
—the mythos, the hieroglyphs—fathomed

we’d soon meet the type of trouble 
that could really shake boys down: 
long days when the teeth tear it out of us
& the claws don’t stop coming. 

But not yet I hear her whisper, 
not without this moment’s orchestra 
of feeling. As a boy I was whiskerless, 
weighed down by the nest of knots 

squat in my belly. As a cat, 
I was so much more. Of course,
as mother to the Cat Prince, 
she knew all this.

Queensferry’s Lost Not Found

—for Scott 

It’s something only you could draw, 
that’s the infuriating thing: ickle fish 
enmeshed in thick beard, 
limbs in seaweed stookies— 
in your pocket two jostling crabs. 
Shoes salted, teeth gooped, 
a beatific smile pious 
as a new kite. 

Skipper, this is how I imagined 
you’d be found, having undergone 
an aquatic mummification 
you’d overseen personally, 
fastidiously; a lewd merman 
belching by your flank. 

The big question was not 
whether we wanted to spot you— 
like a stricken porpoise or seal 
too curious—but whether, if we did, 
to throw you back 
or take you home for supper; 
the colours having shifted. 

Yesterday’s battering 
whittled to a scorch of hours, 
snuffed to a wound. No. 
More than that—this purse of love, 
pilfered by another universe 
neglecting to leave a note; 
body-break foil-wrapped. 

On a balmy Thursday night in May, 
after a second day of searching, 
abrupt waterworks beneath 
a lamppost in Leith, a cauldron 
of light wombed around life’s 
whipping, ripe bawling. 
I took the call. I’ll admit, 
I’m relieved it wasn’t me. 

of my own first word

i’ve not a scoobie
nor does it grate
but i do have suggestions
for the last of them
in furnishing breath
before the dip of death
mind both still & racing
the way a winter stream
can be frozen on its crest
whilst galloping away
below the ice
what’s more
when it fades
i’ve already decided
my hand will not need held
my hands will hold each other
who’ll be holding my hand

not so much written as gifted

the smell of burnt halloumi in my hair
& seed-speckled shoelaces

vaulting towards my lover
for a voyage down the riverbank

i’m riding this bike like a corsair
of the cycle paths hopping

potholes & snatching blackberries
straight from the bush

in moments like these this work
seems god-given

having used their egg-teeth to tear
through the shell the poems

arrive total & chirruping
caked in chutzpah ensorcelled

i peddle faster & yell into the sun
release these words from in me

Click here to read Lindsay Johnstone’s review of Michael’s new collection, The Cat Prince

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The Glasgow Review of Books (ISSN 2053-0560) is a review journal publishing short and long reviews, review essays and interviews, as well as translations, fiction, poetry, and visual art. We are interested in all forms of cultural practice and seek to incorporate more marginal, peripheral or neglected forms into our debates and discussions. We aim to foster discussion of work from small and specialised publishers and practitioners, and to maintain a focus on issues in and about translation. The review has a determinedly international approach, but is also a proud resident of Glasgow.

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