The student strike in Quebec

A dimension of the Quebec student protests that goes unexamined, for all that it seems to me the most important issue, is the magical thinking about university degrees that dominates on all sides.

I speak, to be sure, of those– to pick a random example, Margaret Wente– who seem to think that job markets are perfectly elastic, as if arts majors could all stampede into something useful like electrical engineering without creating a vast oversupply of electrical engineers. It’s absurd to hold useless-degree-holders (which, to be realistic, must include pure math/science majors, and to be snide, also B.Coms.) responsible for what amounts to a large-scale labour allocation problem. Wente’s fond dream of erstwhile lit students taking up hard-skilled professions, if realised, would produce the very opposite of what she imagines: trained electrical engineers working as night-club singers, like the one I met in Cuba. Wente herself might even end up having to compete with people who are good at something.

But really I want to focus on the magical thinking that sustains the pro-strike side, because I think it’s deeper, more regrettable, but also to some extent ameliorable.

That the position of those opposed to tuition hikes, and indeed in favour of tuition cuts, rests principally on claims about social justice is the important clue. This connection makes sense as long as the economy is growing and the only significant limits on a person’s access to prosperity are social. In that world, the most important questions of public and ethical concern are those of distribution: everyone can get richer, so the chief challenge for the socially conscious is to ensure that everyone does.

As soon as the increase of material abundance begins to slow, let alone reverse, the limits on a person’s opportunity will be to a lesser degree social, and increasingly material. Hence a purely social symbol, such as the university diploma, will become less efficacious in any given respect, and distribution-oriented approaches to the public good will find their lever growing shorter. If any social improvement could be made, it would be outweighed by material diminution.

To put it more concretely, cheap broad-access university education and the good jobs it guaranteed to graduates flourished as a strategy while the world’s GDP was busy sextupling in the second half of the twentieth century. It is less likely to flourish– in fact, certain not to– as we run up against hard material limits to the economy. Austerity is a questionable and self-interested concept peddled by an elite that has spent thirty comfortable years quietly selling the furniture while the house falls apart. But a reality underlies it.

This is why, when I consider the student strike and the emotional and policy problems it raises, I find myself wanting to bracket off the ideological contention, and bracket off my strong feelings about jackbooted thugs attacking citizens and friends of mine. I find myself wanting to think outside the crisis entirely.

I can see why resistance is necessary for the student faction as an interest group, and I sympathise with the sentiment that education ought be freely available and undictated to, that corporate power is to be resisted wherever possible; and I can understand the sentiment that students should pay their share for a good that benefits them. I can empathise with those who find in the angry love-god of the barricades something to swell their hearts. Arjuna must fight, fare forward voyagers and all that.

But to me the ideological disputes look like the noisy, senseless, confused output of a system whose complexity is overtaxing the resources available to sustain it. People get hurt, things get broken, energies dissipate, to no good in particular. I’m confronted on all sides with a refusal to examine clearly what is being valued and what isn’t and what perhaps ought to be. What if the ethic that would best see us through darkening times, more than egalitarianism or class solidarity or free market principles, is one of uncompensated labour or civilisation or voluntary poverty? Where is room being made in this crisis for that possibility?

What does an Innu man on Montreal’s streets think of daily pitched battles that for him accomplish nothing but to disrupt the precarious urban ecology he makes his living in?

The fury on display, I suspect, has above all to do with a sense of mourning, incomprehension and rage at the demise-in-progress of the prosperous liberal middle-class lifeway. Nobody knows what to do about it except to take up their part in the Jacobin script, to fight for the right side in the wrong battle.

My strongest instincts tell me that the challenge now set before people of education and conscience is to decide what is good and necessary in the university, create resilient alternative means of preserving that wealth, and let the rest, the Faustian engine of economic privilege, decay. There will always be a route to riches that runs through the university. What must be relinquished, what we must try to step outside of for moments at least if we want to prepare for the future, is the dream that anyone might take it.

To give up the spectre of universal New World middle-class-hood– obscene wealth by any comparison in time or space– is to the clear the ground for a really radical question: where else might our treasures be?




Where Shall Wisdom Be Found? Atheism and Other Superstitions

In last week’s post I proposed a model in which there are two sorts of knowledge, which I called relational knowledge and true belief. On this account, “superstition” is to be understood as a category error, the mistaking of one sort of knowledge for the other. I focused on distinguishing the two and haven’t taken a good look at what relational knowledge might be or what problems may arise. For instance, what separates good relational knowledge from bad? How do we come by relational knowledge, and how do we change it? What effects does it have on how we act? Is the knowledge in our heads, or out in the world, or both? What would a relational psychology look like?

Partly to combat my tendency to over-theorise, and partly because I should go study Martin Buber and report back before committing to any more abstract dicta, I want to start these considerations with some definite content: religion. My suggestion is that the three currently predominant concepts of religion are essentially superstitious.

The most common error in thinking about religion is to suppose that religion has anything to do with true belief. The position people variously call atheism or secular materialism consists chiefly in the view that religion amounts to a set of propositions about the world that are false, or unreasonable, or unproven, or unprovable. The classic of the type, coined by Bertrand Russell and still rattled off daily on Internet forums, is the “Invisible Teapot” argument: there is no sort of evidence for the existence of God (or miracles, or the Resurrection, or magic) that couldn’t also be used to show that an invisible teapot orbits the Earth. Nobody believes in invisible teapots. So why believe in God? A more subtle version, alluding either to Occam’s razor or the theory of evolution, simply says that “God” isn’t necessary to explain the world, so there’s no reason to suppose that he exists. The inevitable conclusion of this argument in any of its forms is that religion is irrational and ought to be expunged or at best grudgingly tolerated.

On its own terms this view is unassailable. But a moment’s thought shows it to be mere prejudice, resting on an unquestioned assumption that religion is an instrument for giving people true beliefs. It’s not. Religion is mostly about practices and relations. Its particular corner of expertise consists in relating to the irrational and mysterious, which is important because people are irrational and mysterious. Once this is acknowledged, it will be seen that any epistemological or “scientific” argument against the practice of religion misses the point entirely.

To be fair to materialists, though, the fundamentalist impulse in modern Christianity commits precisely the same error, inverted. Anyone who takes the Bible literally as a source of true belief about the world, anyone who subscribes to some material eschatology, anyone who thinks God is a dude in the sky who answers prayers and acts in history, anyone who thinks abortion sends an unbaptised infant soul to hell (or heaven), creationists, dispensationalists, dominionists—in short, the Christian right—subscribes as atheists do to a materialist view of the Christian faith in which the church has a role as the source of true belief. The only difference is that they think the church is a good instrument, not a bad one.

This view has always been present in Christianity, of course, and it has its origin well before Christ in Zoroaster’s vision of cosmic good and evil. The established church since its beginning in the fourth century has, after all, ascribed central importance to its creed. The heresy I’m attacking—in its secular and fundamentalist forms—lies in the impulse to reduce the church to nothing but its creed, the Puritan recourse to sola fide and sola scriptura that excludes all relational knowledge as, well, superstitious. What matters is the Truth, personal commitment to the Truth, and the authoritative written Gospel that substantiates and reveals/conceals it. Art, seasonal traditions, saints, feasts and fasts, holy sacraments, trappings of worship—these are all inimical and even satanic distractions from the one Truth by which man is saved. Not coincidentally, their actual function is to conserve relational knowledge, and they have nothing to do with true or false belief.

No one can dispute that this was a productive heresy—you don’t get the scientific or industrial revolutions without it, nor the Enlightenment, nor the idea of America—but today its perseverance is an idolatrous relic that makes it very difficult to think sensibly about religion. At the very least, it must be seen that the fierce antipathy between secular rationalisers and the Christian right conceals an underlying agreement on the superstition that true belief is all.

The third concept of religion whose superstition needs exposing is that of the liberal to mainline Protestant churches. These generally avoid the materialist excesses of the Christian right. But by and large their members are, strictly speaking, liberal humanists—adherents of an Enlightenment faith in humanity that was articulated and given its form by the positivists Count St-Simon and Auguste Comte. This faith’s tenets are that the dignity of humanity is the highest good; that humanity’s chief aim is to improve its material lot; that progressive achievement in science will permit humanity to attain this goal by enabling greater control of nature; and that progress can be made in ethics and politics by scientific means. Where the mainline churches are something other than cultural museums and social clubs for the elderly, their theology is more firmly committed to liberal positivism than to any Christian practice, excepting points such as service to the poor where the two positions can uneasily coincide. The extreme case is the Unitarian Universalist church, which arrived at its seven doctrinal principles by asking its members what they believed in—ending up by merely replicating Comte’s dogma in its essentials.

I’m a little uneasy criticising the liberal churches too strongly for this confusion, because they do at least offer a form of religious community for some humanists who would otherwise have only political movements to satisfy their needs. And it is true that there are radical Anglicans, Catholics, Lutherans, and United Church members who act from a Christian impulse rather than a politically idealistic one. But by posing as religionists of a traditional faith, most liberal churchgoers contribute to the illusion that the tenets of liberal humanism are in fact objective truths. In effect they conceal the relational, theological nature of positivist claims by pretending them to be compatible with Christian theology.

It is imperative, I think, that people of good conscience shear off the superstitions of liberal humanism: both so that it may become clear what of liberalism might and must be salvaged, and so that we can free our religious faculties to seek new life. Secular materialism—a close ally of positivism—and its dark twin in the Thundergod-worshipping churches of the Bible Belt, are no less stultifying. The Enlightenment is, simply, a defunct and dangerous faith, and after 500 years we need a new Reformation. Our task of paramount importance is to become conscious of just how much that we take to be true about the world is actually a matrix of increasingly unrealistic relational knowledge, derived and sustained by an unexamined positivist faith in humanity. We must then begin the effort of reconfiguring our relational knowledge in a way that suits the world and lets us serve the good.

Superstition: Prolegomena to Any Future Iconoclasm

Superstition has been on my mind a lot this week, because I’m troubled by the thought that all my reading and attempts to arrive at an understanding of the world are, in essence, formal ritual acts. My cat, when he brings a bird or a shrew into the house and I take it away from him, does something similar: he will attend hungrily to the last place the unfortunate creature hid, in a box or behind a potted plant, and when eventually nothing emerges he will still prowl and snuffle about for a while. He does this even if he has seen me carry the bird out the door and release it.

Like many cat “owners” I have a theory that cats operate in more dimensions than we do, in which case this behaviour must have some occult intelligence to it. But from my limited perspective it looks like a sad repetition of learned behaviour, an attempt to inscribe meaning by re-establishing a relational structure that has previously had success in getting at something that’s really there in the world. Shrews hide in boxes, knowledge hides in books: reading books, in an office piled high with books, I construct the idea that the world is intelligible, that by study and synthesis of the right written ideas I intelligise it, and that if I possess the right set of intelligands it will be clear how I should live. I am suddenly alerted to the doubt that those intelligands are anything more than random noise, thrown into form merely by the structure implicitly established when I pick up a book and piously move my eyes from left to right. Or that, even if the intelligands are real and accessible in theory, my effort might be more directed at aping the structure of access than at achieving access. And in any case, that I couldn’t possibly tell the difference.

(Note that a thousand years after some Irish monk wrote the poem “Pangur Ban,” comparing reading to a cat catching mice, my only advance is to observe that reading is equally like a cat not catching mice.)

So possibly the following is the unconscious product of an antediluvian mental habit. Take it with some salt.

*            *            *

We live in a terrifically superstitious time, in a culture practically defined by its superstition. This is necessarily so, in the minimal sense that life in the industrial world is hedged about and mediated by human abstractions, and our relations to these abstractions crowd out relations with mere things. The habit of thinking that food comes from a grocery store, for instance, is superstitious, even if it exists in the same mind as the (true) belief that food originates as animals and plants on farms. Ditto the habit of thinking that electricity comes from the wall, gas from the pump, and water from the tap. More precisely, these habits of mind are relations, contingent and arbitrary and temporarily helpful, and my hypothesis is that they become superstitious when we mistake them for beliefs.

Now, it doesn’t take much examination of “water comes from the tap” to conclude that as a belief it’s false, and in that sense it’s not a very powerful superstition. It’s easy, especially if a risk arises (say, a mercury dump in the lake), for the average person to distinguish between the relation “I turn the tap when I need water” and the proposition that the tap makes the water. But there are two serious risks to superstitions of this sort.

One is that “food comes from a grocery store” is a relatively simple relation. Abstraction itself isn’t the problem—“food comes from a tree” is already abstract, but since “food” is a relational category that people and trees both recognise, this doesn’t usually cause any harmful confusion—but beyond two degrees or so abstraction and complexity tax the human mind too much to be useful as relational knowledge, and the inevitable result is to hide the working-out and treat the abstraction as a belief.

Money is an excellent example: currency and dollar-valuations are symbols of relations (read David Graeber on this subject, e.g.), and not that much more abstract than water-taps (though the encoded relations are very complex). The average person thinks, however, that money is a thing in the world, about which it is possible to have non-contingent true beliefs. Further, this superstitious view of money is apparently corroborated by other attending superstitious attitudes that might be summed up in the phrase, “cold hard cash.” Thus an entire romance around the concept of money permits people to believe that they are hard-headed realists because they think only about the economy and what things cost; when in fact they are merely championing one sort of relation to the exclusion of others, and that half-blindly and for no good reason at all.

Still, money is a useful abstraction that we have no choice but to live with. Our world runs on it. Multiply this one abstract relation by a thousand instances, amp up the complexity accordingly, and it’s clear why we’re all so superstitious. It’s impossible to think sustainably and independently about the immense structures that determine and mediate our lives. And the fatigue that would be involved in an effort to think clearly about even a small slice of our world, or to determine what it might be feasible to think clearly about, is such that seemingly it makes little sense to try even where it’s manifestly possible or urgently necessary. Relations that are too abstract and complex are impossible to engage with, which is intolerable, and so we form the habit of taking them to be given true beliefs.

Not that we have to take it all on at once, of course. Many of our superstitions and shorthands are generally reliable and useful. But in a time of transition and crisis there are things we simply have to think about, and it’s essential that we at least be aware of where superstition masquerades as thought.

The second difficulty is more subtle and idiosyncratic: in the industrial world we have a tendency to ascribe way too much importance to (true) beliefs. The common understanding of the word “superstition” itself is an example of this. The average thoughtful person, I think, supposes that what we know amounts to a set of propositions about the world that are demonstrable by reason and true for all persons. Superstition, on this view, is any false belief that someone holds, or even a true belief that they hold without evidence or reason; emotion-driven beliefs or beliefs that are not true for all persons are particularly likely to be termed superstitious. Superstition is a synonym for irrationality.

This position leads to absurdities and insoluble problems when applied to most things we think are important. Whether my partner loves me or not, for instance, is unknowable as a proposition and impossible to reason about. Identity mostly doesn’t consist in propositions, either. We wouldn’t say that a scientist in 1900 who doesn’t believe in continental drift is superstitious, despite his false belief, because we presume he would change his beliefs if shown sufficient reasonable evidence. But my understanding of who I am can’t really be reasoned out of—if presented with proof that I was actually born in Syria to Arab parents, I wouldn’t simply move to Syria, reject my Canadian attachments as unreasonable, and talk myself into living as a Syrian. It’s obvious why not. But you’d be forced to call me superstitious for not doing it, or for objecting when the government deported me.

So what I’m suggesting is that “superstition” shouldn’t properly refer to a false belief, but instead to a sort of category error: the mistaking of particular, relational knowledge for objective, universally true belief, or of applying standards of true belief where standards of relation are proper.

Relational knowledge can’t be true or false, it can only represent a particular corner of the world better or less well. The rationalist impulse to reject it as false, subjective, and superstitious is itself a superstitious move in my model, because it precisely involves grading a relation on standards proper to true belief.

And in fact this chief among the superstitions of reason leads to the others, because it compels us to interpret anything we know, individually or communally, as a true belief—which is both to ossify it and to mark it off as a potential flash point for intractable controversy, a fault line of social division rather than a site for negotiation.

*            *            *

That’s enough for today, but I plan to use this post as the apparatus for a series of re-evaluative ruminations. Examples of obstructive superstition abound, I assure you. I think my model will be a helpful lens for understanding many contradictions and official madnesses in our world, and I’m particularly interested in that last paragraph as a promising jumping-off point.

Lord Krishna ends the worship of Indra and lifts Govardhana Hill

When Krishna saw the cowherd men busily preparing for a sacrifice to Indra, he inquired about it from their king, Nanda: “Is it a ceremony based on scriptural injunction, or simply a custom of ordinary society?”

Nanda explained that the rain given by Indra enables all living entities to maintain their lives, and therefore this sacrifice would be executed to satisfy him. “The great Lord Indra is the controller of the rain. The clouds are his personal representatives, and they directly provide rainwater, which gives happiness and sustenance to all creatures. Not only we, my dear son, but also many other men worship him, the lord and master of the rain-giving clouds. We offer him grain and other paraphernalia of worship produced through his own discharge in the form of rain.”

Krishna responded, “It is because of life-force alone that living entities take their birth in a certain body, experience varieties of happiness and suffering in that body, and then give it up as the life-force pertaining to it runs out. Thus it is life-force alone that is our enemy, our friend, our teacher and our lord, and Indra can do nothing to alter the happiness and distress of anyone, for everyone is tightly bound by his conditioned nature. Therefore one should seriously worship work itself. A person should do the work corresponding to his nature and should perform his own duty. Indeed, that by which we may live nicely is really our worshipable deity.

“The causes of creation, maintenance and destruction are the three modes of nature — namely goodness, passion and ignorance. In particular, the mode of passion creates this universe and through sexual combination causes it to become full of variety. Impelled by the material mode of passion, the clouds pour down their rain everywhere, and by this rain all creatures gain their sustenance. What has the great Indra to do with this arrangement? Furthermore, my dear father, our home is not in the cities or towns or villages. Being forest dwellers, we always live in the forest and on the hills. Therefore may a sacrifice for the pleasure of the cows, the poets, and Govardhana Hill begin! With all the paraphernalia collected for worshiping Indra, let this sacrifice be performed instead.

“Let many different kinds of food be cooked, from sweet rice to vegetable soups! Many kinds of fancy cakes, both baked and fried, should be prepared. And all the available milk products should be taken for this sacrifice. The poets who are learned in the seasonal rituals must properly invoke the sacrificial fires. Then you should feed them with nicely prepared food and reward them with cows and other gifts. After giving the appropriate food to everyone else, including such fallen souls as dogs and dog-eaters, you should give grass to the cows and then present your respectful offerings to Govardhana Hill. After everyone has eaten to his satisfaction, you should all dress and decorate yourselves handsomely, smear your bodies with sandalwood paste and then circumambulate the cows, the poets, the sacrificial fires and Govardhana Hill.”

The cowherd community then did all that Lord Krishna had suggested. They arranged for the poets to recite the auspicious poems, and using the paraphernalia that had been intended for Indra’s sacrifice, they presented offerings to Govardhana Hill and the poets with reverential respect. They also gave grass to the cows. Then, placing the cows, bulls and calves in front of them, they circumambulated Govardhana.

As beautifully dressed revellers followed along, riding on wagons drawn by oxen, they sang the glories of Lord Krishna, and their songs mingled with the poets’ chanting of benedictions. Krishna then assumed an unprecedented, huge form to instill faith in the villagers. Declaring “I am Govardhana Mountain!” He ate the abundant offerings. Together with the people, the Lord bowed down to this form of Govardhana Hill, thus in effect offering obeisances to Himself. Then He said, “Just see how this hill has appeared in person and bestowed mercy upon us! This Govardhana Hill, assuming any form he wishes, will kill any residents of the forest who neglect him. Therefore let us pay our obeisances to him for the safety of ourselves and our cows.”

When Indra understood that his sacrifice had been put aside, he angrily sent forth the clouds of universal destruction. Indra said, “Just see how these cow herders living in the forest have become so greatly intoxicated by their prosperity! They have surrendered to an ordinary human being, Krishna, and thus they have offended the gods. Their taking shelter of Krishna is just like the foolish attempt of men who abandon transcendental knowledge of the self and instead try to cross over the great ocean of material existence in the false boats of fruitive, ritual sacrifices. These cow herders have acted inimically toward me by taking shelter of this ordinary human being, Krishna, who thinks himself very wise but who is simply a foolish, arrogant, over-talkative child.”

To the clouds of destruction King Indra said, “The prosperity of these people has made them mad with pride, and their arrogance is backed up by Krishna. Now go and remove their pride and bring their animals to destruction.”

Propelled by the fearsome wind-gods, the clouds blazed with lightning bolts and roared with thunder as they hurled down hailstones. As the clouds released torrents of rain as thick as massive columns, the earth was submerged in the flood, and high ground could no longer be distinguished from low. The cows and other animals, shivering from the excessive rain and wind, and the people, pained by the cold, all approached Krishna for shelter.

Lord Krishna said to himself, “Because we have stopped his sacrifice, Indra has caused this unusually fierce, unseasonable rain, together with terrible winds and hail. I will completely counteract this disturbance caused by Indra. Demigods like Indra are proud of their opulence, and out of foolishness they falsely consider themselves the Lord of the universe. I will now destroy such ignorance.”

Having said this, Lord Krishna picked up Govardhana Hill with one hand and held it aloft just as easily as a child holds up a mushroom. He then addressed the community: “If you wish, you may now come under this hill with your cows.” Forgetting hunger and thirst and putting aside all considerations of personal pleasure, he stood there holding up the hill for seven days as the people took shelter under it.

When Indra observed this exhibition of Krishna’s power, he became most astonished. Pulled down from his platform of false pride, and his intentions thwarted, he ordered his clouds to desist.

Seeing that the fierce wind and rain had now ceased, the sky had become clear of rainclouds, and the sun had risen, Krishna spoke to the community as follows: “Give up your fear and return to your lives. The wind and rain have stopped, and the rivers’ high waters have subsided.”

While all living creatures looked on, Lord Krishna put down the hill in its original place, just as it had stood before.

[adapted from A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda’s translation of the Bhagavata Purana, Canto 10 Chapter 24-25. ]


I am a bluff

red mudrock seaming

the great wash


at sideways sundown

from vertebral holes

swallows dart

plucking stripped green limbs

askew the gustsong


and o what dreams

o my nutshell

for you the wash

the kelp and gooseshit

among the stones


o what dreams


for you sad eagle

these cries

Canadian Erotic

There it is,

Mount Royal,

Canada’s G-spot:

An igneous extrusion of Shield

Where Maisonneuve planted an X so he could find it again–

Age-old motion round it, touch-hungry, needing

To birth a civilization conceived in meeting

Even as your eyes flicker on these lines

A many-tongued cohort of Canadians

Tickle it just there with the play

Of their eager tender


Our country touchstone.


Here three first ones have writhed year-in year-out

Writhing a creaturely pleasure and pain

In a half-done creative act

Half hairy winter-warming

And half the spirit’s highest straining

After a half-measured dance of common imagination.

Fall in: your legs will know the beat and learn to better it.

The more the merrier, in this old dance.

Here three writhe

Here this country burns for you

And here is where we make it.


That was a scandalous impoliteness

(What would they say in Ottawa?)

For which I nevertheless give no apology:

We cannot begin by blushing,

If we are to set Canada ablaze with desire for Canada.


Now leave the sweat lodge, stand at Parc and Pine

Look up there with washed eyes

See Canada.


East, greystone geometric hospitallers and hedonist Main stretch.

West, modern gym named for Currie hero of Vimy on Mohawk soil and longhouse bones.

South, cafés next hotels, homeless huddle, skyscraping walls and city lights.

North, above all North spreads green under bright Mother-Sky too big for Montreal lights and wires, each season its mystery:

Spring shows Scotian summer, rainsquall whipping wind and ocean smell,

Mount Royal besmurred;

June evenings, Sun sets due north, yellow like no other lighting Friendly Cloud,

Immense sky-salmon leaping;

Fall’s crisp blue and cirrus,

Mont-Royal portant sa jupe jaune;

Step north in winter, ski silent in Manitou’s starry temple,

Pinesmoke wafting spirit towards presence

And then—

And then leaf-turned woods maple smoke ham voyageurs coureurs Métis bandana struggle

fish and no fish and shots over the bow

coal smoke nickel Erie rail singin’ Neil Young

Trenton valley Main Street young blood yielded

Klondike wheat flax canola tar stocks

fiddle tidebore seatang fiddlehead birch Thomson lake mosquitoes lake snow seal mush!

Carr salmon Douglas firs in the nave dripping water drops older than our old civilization

to limestone islands then I came GO trains converge from half-somewheres

alienation a lie nation but whose? but that’s just cleverness and doesn’t work in French

or Hindi or out loud for that matter, does it?




Round this joining-place the circle widening

And to my shoes it’s just an intersection

To my feet the Northern Lights dancing

Partageant le Canada.

No time, no direction this blessed place fails to catch our breath in our throats.


Two Cats

In a little cabin by the sea,

With me there are two cats:

One is tiny, orange and good,

Hunts mice and ghosts as all cats should,

Would be a tiger if he could,

And prays for all that be.


A panther born in darkest night,

Despite my best attempts,

Hides in corners, prowls the floor,

And if I ever dare ignore

His awful shadow on the door–

He springs, and claws, and bites.


On winter nights, when gales blow

I cringe and quake and quaver,

Praying to the god of cats

The orange one is the braver.