Fiction by Alex Blackwater

December 15, 2023

Flash

After Virginia Woolf’s “Flush”

but I have a poem in my head the only place a poem can be thought it through the eyes of a tallcat ones who walk on two legs I have one who feeds me heard from Freya what they are doing she is a cat like me spoke it softly the way when we see birds suffused in death glow already alone unknowing soft edgeward in time grown thin

Shooting Cats
They have slaughtered other species
into extinction; exterminated
delicate dimensions
of nature like lace
with their claws.

“In 2015, the Australian government announced that it intended to kill more than 2 million feral cats by 2020 through shooting, trapping, and poisoning, and one council even offered a cat-scalp bounty. Feral animals who are shot or poisoned suffer and feel pain in the same way that our family cats would.”1

“Efforts to transcend capitalism in any egalitarian and broadly sustainable fashion will be stymied so long as the radical political imagination is captive to capitalism’s either/or organization of reality: Nature/Society.”2
 

but perhaps she spoke it this way because it was overwhelming bodies rotted young from the broken leg bitten snare of human teeth planted metal in the grass feeding on something not us they killed it was nature they spread across smothered in shiny growlers ruining space for anything but themselves

“While some wildlife groups may use media attention to speculate that cats are causing species loss, leading biologists, climate scientists, and environmental watchdogs all agree: endangered species’ fight for survival rests in our own hands. Focusing on cats diverts attention from the far more dangerous impact of humans.”3

We shepherd the birds
and bilbies they consume like bones
into velvet lined caskets; sacred inscriptions
that we were never there—

never hunting
the wholeness of animals
by shooting a cat in the head.

so Salem was bred to be natural Maine Coon bloodscribed
from beginning born chosen already loved
for more than he knows I am ugly selected unseen
for humans grooming their reflections empty of themselves
in everything they touch she stares at him
when he isn’t looking I stare at her
careful holding of his frame balancing need to embrace
with his comfort she always listens
when he calls without understanding

but if I were to mark my poem scratched somewhere in the soft mountain where my tallcat sits my scent is marked everything mine in this tallcat den it would be different than in my head her tone curling around on itself like a tail that’s when I know she my tallcat feels the illanguagable gulf between us strange close to the nothing we feel alonescape shared in outside ourselves

“The strange stranger is strange all the way down—there is no way to become fully familiar with him, her, or it (how can we ever fully tell?). It is would be best to replace the term ‘animal’ with ‘strange stranger.’” 4

“Too many media stories sidestep these realities to focus on sensational issues like cats’ imagined impact on birds. But cats have been a natural part of the landscape for over 10,000 years—that has not changed.”5

So we bury the prey of cats
in houses for our dead;

preserve the time of their existence
forever as though evolution
never moved; never grew
or chewed on a bone to survive
because that’s all it knew.

so Salem is silver sparkling they say delicate grey
streaks with white undercoat pushing up from beneath like first snow
swelling into holes of light perforating ground
looking out into something beyond
from which life springs and tries to get in
I am a box punctured with holes
by the eyes of people
trying to see what lies behind
the cardboard brown
that is me

but I imagine tallcats have the same gulf between one another just like me and Freya flyscreened off at the window of words sometimes openclosed shut with meanings of my own name ‘Salem’ to her is somewhere she wants to be safeclosed from human dreams of a nature she is not they brought her evolutioned off from themselves reflected in her lost breeding unblamed of place to grow in number

“What has changed in that time is how we have re-shaped the environment to suit 21st century human needs—at a great cost to the other species that share our ecosystem. Our direct impact on our environment is without a doubt the number one cause of species loss.”6

so sometimes I think in that house
is my natural environment but I am too damaged now to thrive
there I cannot stand to be held human
hands horrify me creatures at the ends of their legs
with legs of their own crawlerasing
stillness like screams even though my body shudders with every stroke
Salem receives imagining
the feeling of weightlessness at the expense of another
than myself every time he is carried
on his back melting muscleless suspended
in his survival like a bird’s wings
frozen for a glide that lasts
a lifetime

“Worlds have horizons: “here” and “there”, inside and outside. Worlds thus imply distance and hierarchy. If all life forms are entangled, no hierarchy is possible without violence. Instead of imagining ourselves as part of something bigger, it would be more helpful to start with the fact of our intimate coexistence with other life forms. We have others – and they have us – literally under our skin. Intimacy might make a better beginning for an ecological ethics than holism.” 7

We keep Eden alive
beneath six feet of soil and men
as though decay were the dream
and genesis was always waiting
at the end.

but to me Freya is also somewhere I long to be I don’t wish to be away from my tallcat colony of us wildspread across the rooms of our-den hunting meals together slept in her arms shared like food around me but me and Freya share words same as our bodies built from tongue spined with motherbathed kitten instinct to groom can’t I have both?

so Salem is beautiful yes but that’s not why I love him
but I wish I got caught in his eyes the way he does in mine
he is delicate in the nerves like a baby bird
this makes him sad in a way that reminds me
of being kitten
open to friend with anything
before the fear of losing something
arrived like a kitten
never stops needing to cry all you can do
is sleep when it’s silent
to escape that you know the need never stops
but only grows shy and conscious
of why it is there

but my tallcat has a new tallcat who lives with us now replacing me sometimes on the soft mountain where they lie ensnared in each other playing clawless sometimes sitting apart staring at the bright window to other tallcats speaking and moving inside small like birds she pets me while the window winds her down the toy plays with her moves her motionless eyes slow blinked friend that feeds her seeing of others and outside

“When a cat greets another cat or a person with slow, languid blinks, it’s communicating affection. Why? Because in the feline world, closing one’s eyes in the presence of another is the ultimate sign of trust. By blinking slowly at your cat, you are communicating that you are aware of its presence and pose no threat. So the next time your cat blinks at you, try returning the gesture.”8

“Make no mistake—habitat loss is the most critical threat to birds. With this exponential human population growth comes massive use of natural resources and rampant development: industrial activity, logging, farming, suburbanization, mining, road building, and a host of other activities. The impact on species from habitat destruction, pollution, fragmentation, and modification is alarming.”9

but my tallcat’s name is Crystal makes me think of the bright spots in the sky at night sitting like glowing bugs on the surface of a great dark lake this lake reminds me of her new tallcat unrooming her of space legs spread on the soft mountain he says with loud noises that my claws cannot write me into the soft mountain their world fabric leisured empty of landscape where I belong

We write to our ghosts
in our graveforests of stone
hoping that nature will not hear
us whisper how to remould
our minds.

so Salem likes to think
he will persist
when his body has passed and become
light like the great hot circle and be
warm and happy without a body
through which to feel but I
have hunted myself down to nothing and never
slept until I knew I was fed enough to not die
in my dreams knowing how
precious it is to be
unconscious

“People have always modified natural landscapes in the course of finding food, obtaining shelter, and meeting other requirements of daily life. What makes present-day human alteration of habitat the number one problem for birds and other creatures is its unprecedented scale and intensity.”10

Until then cats creep through
our thoughts, like death
beyond the edge of its cemetery:
rotting magnificent, stretched
across a hunter’s harp
skinning music from the soul
for its carcass buried
later, eaten by the cats
that killed it.

     – By Salem

but when I do write with my claws on the soft mountain Crystal’s new tallcat makes a thunderous noise like the great dark lake-sky skinned of light black inside and I run somewhere noiseless on the edge of his voice swollen like clouds overcasting me from Crystal glowing in the darkness small like bugs constellated starring down into eyes mapping how far they can spread

“Feral cats are wary of humans and therefore can be difficult to shoot lethally at a distance, which often results in non-fatal injuries and a slow, agonising death. Likewise, poisonous baits containing toxic 1080 can be horrifically cruel.”11

so I told Salem a poem I thought for him he is scared so I wanted him to
know that I am scared too because humans are large and don’t look down
enough to the small things living there anetherworld restructuring itself
around their legs like barnacles borrowing space from stillness except
they move and we domesticared for them in the chaos they create

Smallcat

My love runs from noises
larger than itself. My love is small.
It wants you to look
away so it can watch
your voice from the corner of its eye;
feel the force of your animation when it must
remain invisible.

“It sees itself, the response, dictated to be poetic, by being poetic. And for that reason, it is obliged to address itself to someone, singularly to you but as if to the being lost in anonymity, between city and nature, an imparted secret, at once public and private, absolutely one and the other, absolved from within and from without, neither one nor the other, the animal thrown onto the road, absolute, solitary, rolled up in a ball, next to it(self). And for that reason, it may get itself run over.”12

but Freya has never known tallcat love she fears them all not as much as she fears a shiny growler running in herds treading speed over cats left lying on border between pavement and road inviolating death in their edges so closely separated by thin film of violence like sclera where the two worlds meet; where one is turned upside down as it filters through and arrives on the other side as only a thought of what it once was

“The hidden dimension definitely exists. Yet as soon as you go round the back of a tree, or fly around the moon, the dark side is no longer there; it has been displaced. You can’t get rid of the dark side, but it keeps disappearing, just ahead just behind.” 13

but sometimes I think the great dark lake has thoughts of its own it can see mine sometimes makes a thundering noise like Crystal’s new human just when my claws ache for soft mountain space opened envelopunctures dotted glowing Crystal-bugs makes them stronger huntsharp keeps me from crumpling like paper when Crystal is done with her little writing stick I love the click that it makes

When you are confined
to words, do you become
large? Do you know what it is like
to be small? Can you be small? Or do you need
your voice to shake
the ground like your voice
shakes you?

“Every well-defined and consistent system contains at least one theorem that the system itself cannot prove. This insight pertains directly to life and intelligence. All life forms are limited. There exists at least one situation (death) that will quite literally deconstruct them.” 14

but perhaps the great dark lake controls everything from the inside through thoughts so hard to control reverbing everywhen silently watched weakness unready murdering all of them forever Freya says I am mad it is Crystal’s new human but she hasn’t been in my body struck thinking soft mountain claws ready when the great dark lake-sky screeches openscratched light down through the clouds as though light itself were only wounds ripped into the fabric of darkness by an invisible cat spirit living in the sky we are not alone this world ripples something greater than ourselves across its surface dropped violence deep inside like a stone

so Salem says he would like to say my poem to Crystal’s new tallcat make
him understand but maybe he doesn’t want to doesn’t everyone want to

Are you scared
of your voice? Does it emanate
from somewhere that you cannot trace? Does it make
you wonder how much of it is left? Does it make
you want to fill your voice
with flesh; to be precisely in the space
your voice tells you is left
for someone else? Do not approach me
but wait. Wait until I have
watched your voice a while.

~ By Freya

so maybe Crystal’s new tallcat feels too many things he cannot say and
so his voice becomes big encompassing everything he cannot name

“[T]he perceived threat of the Hemlock wooly adelgid (Mealnophila fulvoguttata) in the Northeastern United States helps fund the science of entomology. Labs, studies and reports confirm that there is no ‘solution’ to this powerful pest. In truth, the ignorance of the biological processes involved cannot be disclosed, thus the solution moves from the lab to the field as preemptive felling (cutting down the trees) is offered as a spatial solution. People can see the change, so they are comforted into thinking science is doing something. But these preemptive practices operate at human timescales, as they quickly wipe out any possibility that there are resistant strains of Hemlock in the forest. All Hemlock must go, without any conviction that the plant might know something that science does not. Instead, data proliferates through action, as millions of trees are forcibly extracted, leaving out basic evolutionary potential because that would give more agency to the plant than the human. But what happens if the plants are just fine? What if it is only the constructed image of the temperate deciduous forest that is under threat?”15

but last dark I resisted the urge to scratch on the soft mountain instead I hid beneath it showing the great dark lake-sky I am inferior to its wholeness more than mine the sky tallcats call night ceased to screech appeased with itself I fell asleep into morning when I awoke to digging claws into the soft mountain shredded unsensual of myself quivering dead to danger absorbed in my paws sinking through the fabric sung words written to me that I am here my back arched inward thrilling on the tension as I kneaded the soft mountain like I used to knead mother as a kitten curled around her love only this time I left beautiful gashes intricate as those left by Crystal with her little sticks but at that moment a great sound like the floor splitting open occurred and I broke running around our tallcat den searching to escape the perforation of violence to my ears screaming it would consume me completely the way my claws consumed soft mountain canvas that miracled me seeing a small gash in the wall weakness caught in my eyes limping empty I slipped through like a lizard under a rock and gone

Quotes/Traces

1. PETA, “Australia’s Feral Cat Problem,” n.d.

2. Jason W. Moore, Anthropocene or Capitalocene?: Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism (New York: PM Press, 2016), 3.

3. Earth and Animal Advocates, “Stop Blaming Feral Cats,” n.d.

4. Timothy Morton, “Deconstruction and/as Ecology,” in The Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism, ed. Greg Garrard (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 12.

5. Earth and Animal Advocates, “Stop Blaming Feral Cats.”

6. Ibid.

7. Morton, “Deconstruction and/as Ecology,” 11.

8. Rebekah Kuschmider, “How to Read Your Cat’s Body Language,” WebMD, August 25, 2021.

9. Earth and Animal Advocates, “Stop Blaming Feral Cats.”

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid.

12. Jacques Derrida, “Che cos’è la poesia?” Poesia (November 1988).

13. Morton, “Deconstruction and/as Ecology,” 3.

14. Ibid., 12.

15. Rosetta Elkin, “Plant Blindness,” frank news, April 10, 2022.

About Alex Blackwater

Alex Blackwater has schizophrenia and is autistic. She is from Sydney, Australia and has a BA in Creative Writing and English Literature from UNSW. Her work has appeared in The Macabre Museum and The Amphibian Literary Journal.

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