By Don Marquis
From “Poems and Portraits,” 1922
At midnight in the alley
A tom-cat comes to wail,
And he chants the hate of a million years
As he swings his snaky tail.
Malevolent, bony, brindled,
Tiger and devil and bard,
His eyes are coals from the middle of Hell
And his heart is black and hard.
He twists and crouches and capers
And bares his curved sharp claws,
And he sings to the stars of the jungle nights
Ere cities were, or laws.
Beast from a world primeval,
He and his leaping clan,
When the blotched red moon leers over the roofs
Give voice to their scorn of man.
He will lie on a rug to-morrow
And lick his silky fur,
And veil the brute in his yellow eyes
And play he’s tame, and purr.
But at midnight in the alley
He will crouch again and wail,
And beat the time for his demon’s song
With the swing of his demon’s tail.