Lynx rufus

Woken by thirst & a hot gaze
from the mouth of the shelter: sun,
or mother dangling some new,
wet chew-toy for her grown kitten?
The dream visions slink
back behind the rocks, where
it’s always night. Yellow eye,
help me look for a drink under
these shelves of angled light.
Water has no scent of its own.
After dark, it’s simple to track it
by its purr: every large ravine
has a throat, a pulsing vein.
Its surface trembles, the loveliest of pelts.
But sometimes too there’s water
on top of the mountain,
above the head of the ravine.
Silent, & therefore
something to be wary of. Moving
only when the wind disturbs it.
Impossible to ambush.
Daylight buzzing in my whiskers,
I gust through the newly molted leaves
looking for that fierce glint.
__________

Written in response to the comments about anthropomorphism in my previous post.

Revised 10/31, partly in response to further comments from readers. Thanks, y’all.

9 Comments


  1. Interesting the difference voice can make, and thank you for exploring it further. Yes, I think this makes the anthropomorphism slightly less distracting for me.

    I love your descriptions of water as purring, as pelt, as another wild creature with all the attendant implications. That feels to me like plausible bobcat thinking.

    While pure, distilled water does not seem to carry scent, many wild waters I encounter carry or create a faint scent from their contact with soil and plants. Perhaps it’s more obvious here in dry country.

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  2. “…tracking it by its purr” and “…loveliest of pelts”

    Nice imagery, Dave! I wish my cats could read it!

    Where else than this blog would you hear someone mention “plausible bobcat thinking”!

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  3. “Its surface trembles, the loveliest of pelts.”

    A gorgeous evocation. Seriously trying to “see through the eyes” of another species is quite a mind-expanding experience.

    I often wonder what my cat makes of my actions — certainly she can grasp “grooming”, and she’s learned when I’m approachable, and when I can be persuaded to give her food. She knows perfectly well she can’t go through the window glass, but she also knows that smacking against it will chase off an (annoying?) pigeon on the sill. But how does she internally parse my talking on the phone, or reading?

    A bit of pedantry: As I understand some articles I’ve been reading recently, cats actually do see *some* color. Like most mammals, they have two sorts of cone cells in their eyes. (Primates, such as humans, have a third.) But cats don’t pay much *attention* to color — whereas color makes things visually “pop out” for us fruit-eating humans, cats are much more attentive to *motion*. Which is part of why “freezing” is a standard prey-animal reaction….

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  4. Thanks for the high-quality feedback here. MB, I think you’re right about the scent business. In any case, bobcats rely more on eyes and ears than nose, it turns out, so if/when i rewrite the poem, i might excise that line altogether.

    David, that’s interesting about the partial color-sightedness. Maybe they are like people with red-green colorblindness? The ethnobotanist Gary Nabhan has an intersting essay about that condition, which he has himself, and how it can be an asset in certain situations, making certain things in the landscape (not fruit) jump out for him.

    (Update) – Yes, cats have red-green colorblindness, according to a web article that Rebecca Clayton dug up (see previous comment thread).

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  5. Better to say that it’s we and our primate cousins, who’ve *gained* the ability to distinguish colors at the yellow end of the spectrum! After all, there are more mammals with bichromatic vision than there are primates….

    The partial form of R/G colorblindness runs in my family. This is on my father’s side, so I’m unaffected, but one of my nephews has it, as did Dad and both his brothers. One interesting point is that people with the condition have *better* detail vision, directly proportional to the degree of colorblindness!

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  6. We watched a bobcat walk through our yard one evening, just about dusk. It moved like a silent wild thing, intent was everything, the constant quest. We watched it as it slipped through the 4X6 inch deer fencing, as if it wasn’t there. Letting its whiskers be its guide, the cat did not have a moment of hesitation one side of fence to the other. Following something our dumb senses could not perceive.

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  7. David – Yeah, that’s essentially what Nabhan says.

    robin andrea – Yeah, I remember your posts about bobcats with much envy!

    It seems to me that there are so many different kinds of eyes and other light- and heat-sensing organs in nature, not to mention brains to process the signals, that it’s probably a fool’s errand to try and situate them along any given axis or continuum. I mean, from the perspective of a creature than can see in ultraviolet, or one that can perceive the earth’s magnetic field, human vision would seem severly limited, I’m sure.

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  8. Solid stuff, Dave. You’re putting out quite a volume of work here. You’re writing so much!

    You can feel struggles of nature in this. And a beckoning – a momentum.

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  9. Thanks, Bobby. To me, it always seems like I’m slacking, somehow. But I suppose that’s just because getting instant feedback like this is still such an unexpected pleasure, after all those years of solitary writing. It’s not the chore it used to be.

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