As you might have guessed from my last post, I’m something of a cat person. It’s no wonder, really — Odessa’s a cat lover’s town. Like most seaports, it’s swimming with cats. Even so, looking over the photos Jenny and I took during our trip, I was amazed to see just how many felines had sneaked into the camera roll. This inspired me to translate a poem by another Odessan cat fancier, Eduard Bagritsky, whose work I’ve shared twice before. “Cats,” from 1919, is a lovely little ode to the passionate furballs of my hometown.
On the roof, behind the chimney,
with the kind moon looking down,
sticking up their tails so firmly,
they’re already crowding round.
Where the milk is sweet and fragrant,
where the fatback’s gleaming white,
just like little balls of velvet,
they’re rolled up and sleeping tight.
All enkindled by the heat,
they have had their fill of food —
you can’t tempt them, roasted meat,
though you do smell awful good.
How they love the evening warmth
of the kitchen, near the fire,
and the soup’s delicious steam
curling, rising ever higher.
O the darkness of the stairwell!
How the attic smacks of mice…
And that broken window, where they
spy on doves through slitted eyes.
When the house grows still and frigid
neath the waves of evening air,
they come slinking round the edges
of the roof in loving pairs.
To every creature, love’s the same:
the gentlest, loftiest delight —
and the kind moon summons them
to the rooftop every night.
“The Cat Awaits Your Visit”