Shear Wickedness

He was black from his nose to the tip of his tail
__But for irises of a rich yellow.
In his earlier days he was handsome and hale—
__Yes, indeed, a magnificent fellow.

But the calendar pages kept turning, alas,
__And his ways became labored and stressed.
He was no more considered the head of the class.
__He no longer could run with the rest.

His arthritis was getting the best of him now,
__Making grooming an odious chore;
For the pain from his movements would hardly allow
__Him to exercise care anymore.

So his coat took on fur mats, to add to his pain,
__And he looked just a terrible sight.
Could this cat ever hope to be happy again?
__Chances seemed to be ever so slight.

To the vet he was taken. Pain pills were prescribed,
__And they helped; but they held no appeal
To his palate. To take them he couldn’t be bribed;
__He was force–fed them—what an ordeal!

And the vet also gave him a “lion–cut” shave;
__He was shorn of his beautiful coat—
The foul deed of a truly nefarious knave.
__(His imprisonment gets Boots’s vote.)

He came back from the vet looking worse than before—
__With his tail like a rat’s or a rope,
With the sag of his belly made plain, and still more
__About which any feline would mope.

The fur left on his tail, head and neck, and all fours
__From the second joint all the way down
Was a cut like a poodle’s. Be seen out of doors?
__What a joke he’d be all over town!

Worst of all, a dark secret was bared on that day:
__At the base of that coat, Boots’s pride,
Was a mottled admixture of jet–black and gray—
__Rather, dust color, hard to abide.

Through the hot summer weather at least he’ll be cool
__Was the thought—though it hardly consoled;
For one has to acknowledge: it’s terribly cruel
__The indignities heaped on the old.



The Owl and the Pussy–cat

a sentimental sequel

The Owl and the Pussy–cat sailed for home
In their beautiful pea–green boat.
They’d spent all their money. Their mood was not sunny:
They’d pawned both their ring and a coat.
The Owl looked into the Pussy–cat’s eyes
As he gently stroked her fur.
“Oh, Pussy,” he sang, “O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you were,
__You were,
__You were,
What a beautiful Pussy you were.”

The Cat told the Owl, affecting a howl,
“Your choice of tense irks me—it’s low!
My beauty is such that it doesn’t fade much
When compared to some creatures I know.”
“Your meaning, dear Pussy, is perfectly clear
And I beg to take issue with you:
My feathers are trim, and I’ve stayed fairly slim.
You’re lucky my love’s ever true,
__So true,
__So true,
You’re lucky my love’s ever true.”

“Oh, Owl, smell the flowers of our homeland! In hours
We’ll be back by our oak tree again!
Where we courted so well to the sound of my bell—”
“And my high Cs, intoned without strain.”
“That they were,” purred the Cat, and she gave Owl a pat,
“Though your voice has grown tired over time.”
“It has not!” cried the Owl. “Never mind, darling fowl,”
Said the Pussy. “You’re simply sublime,
My dear Owl, you are simply sublime.”



Julian D. Woodruff, who contributes poetry frequently to the Society of Classical Poets, writes poetry and short fiction for children and adults. He recently finished 2020-2021, a poetry collection. A selection of his work can be read at Parody Poetry, Lighten Up Online, Carmina Magazine, and Reedsy.

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15 Responses

  1. Cheryl Corey

    Julian, as a cat lover, I absolutely adore your cat poems. My baby’s deceased, and I remember what it was like to try and give him medicine as he aged. First, I had to get a hold of him – I swear he knew when it was medicine time – then straddle him so he couldn’t scratch, tip his head up, open his mouth & inject a syrup to help his constipation. The lengths (not to mention the expense) we go through for our pets! And what a wonderful take on the Owl and the Pussy-cat. Thank you for these lovely pieces.

    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Thanks, Cheryl
      I’m glad you liked them. Boots, before he became ours, was declawed; otherwise I can’t imagine getting pills into him.

  2. Margaret Coats

    Julian, thanks for making these melodiously funny–especially in the sequel! The “indignities heaped on the old” (feline or human) are rarely humorous, and it’s great to have some laughs in sympathy with the sufferers. In “The Owl and the Pussycat” it’s fun to see the cat overcome the pride of the wise by flattery. Please let Boots know that my veterinarian brother and great-uncle considered body-shaves malpractice; still, it’s hardly possible to persuade a cat that any vet is not a “nefarious knave.” Just don’t let your perky pet get sunburned before he grows out enough fur to smooth over his splotches!

    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Thanks for your good words Margaret, and for your concern. Boots’s fur is growing back, and though I’m not sure how aware he is of it, the gray is slowly getting covered by black again. No worries about sunburn: he’s never out for long, & almost always only a few times at the start of the day.

    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Yes, Cynthia–another How Much Gas Is There Left In The Tank? romances. I was trying for world-weariness and a touch of acidity–often the way I react to today’s craziness. Glad it struck a chord with you.

  3. Jack DesBois

    These are delightful! Thank you, Julian, for brightening my day. I must say I prefer your sequel to Lear’s original, which I always found unaccountably unsettling…

  4. Julian D. Woodruff

    That’s a high compliment in my book, Jack. For whatever amount of whimsy I’ve mustered, I’m definitely riding on Lear’s coattails.
    Maybe the source of your unease with the original is “the ring at the end of his nose”–that there’s only one ring, if not where it came from. This always bothered me a bit, so I wrote another sequel, for children, and with 2 rings. (It’s already been rejected by one kids’ magazine.)

    • Jack DesBois

      Now that I’m giving it some thought, I think it was the pea-green boat. As a child I was taught to fear peas by my mother, who developed a loathing for them (not to mention a bona fide allergy) at the hands of her mother, who was overly fond of frozen peas.

      I like peas now, as long as they’re fresh. But there’s something about a pea-green boat that still strikes me as singularly uninviting.

      • Julian D. Woodruff

        Maybe cafeteria pea green–like pea soup, but slightly grayer?
        There are a number of kids’ books, including one I wrote (so far unpublished) on the subject of distaste for peas.

  5. Brian Yapko

    I admire both of these, Julian, though I give the edge to “Shear Wickedness.” As the former pet parent of a uniquely jolly cat who I held close until he was taken by extreme old age, I relate to every word. In fact, your description of the transition from hale & hearty to dependence & loss of dignity hit me hard. Sometimes we need poetry to make sense of such things as this.

    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Thank you, Brian. Boots, I would say, has not been uniquely jolly; uniquely demanding would come closer, although never testing our ability to respond. But until lately he has been the healthiest of the several cats we’ve had. Now, I fear, he has ever more vet visits and medication to look forward to. Though the poem makes light of his plight, I hope it also conveys the unattractive possibilities that the aged (like me) face. Thanks again for your appreciation.

  6. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Julian, I love these poems. Age isn’t for the spineless, and your ‘Shear Wickedness’ proves one has to have a backbone of steel to not behave like a pussy (unless it’s your one) when facing old age. Great stuff!

    My favorite is the sentimental sequel to ‘The Owl and the Pussy–cat’ (one of my most loved poems). It adds an admirable wink to the fun of the original… especially to those of a certain age. It’s tough to follow in the shoes of the late, great Lear, but you’ve managed to do it with poetic aplomb. Well done!

    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Hi, Susan
      I’m delighted you enjoyed these, and that you hold Lear in high esteem. I really lean on him here, of course, but I hope my sequel expresses a bit my sense of “where we are now” vs. “where we were then” (in Lear’s day) or that it at least is consonant with my view of the general state of things here & now.

      • Susan Jarvis Bryant

        Julian, thank you for this. The layers of mood and meaning in your The Owl and the Pussy–cat are quite something. I love it even more having revisited it from a different angle. It’s a poem that begs to be read more than thrice… I will be back.

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