Cats purring in the library

The whole world stretches out around us

its unfathomable oceans
its lakes, its steppes, its streams,
its hills and permafrost
its sand dunes, its hidden treasures, its islands, its ports of call
its “black gold” and “white coal”
its bauxites and rare terrains
its basilicas, its haunted castles, its ruined keeps
its Salvationists in pastel-pink raincoats singing carols on
Christmas Eve
its bespectacled notaries reading their evening paper by the
light of oil lamps
its retired colonels in conference at the on Rue Saint- Louis-en-l’Ile
its disbanding revellers emerging from outmoded nightclubs
its slant-eyed Cossacks paddling down the Yenisei in birch- bark canoes
its day-trippers in berets attacking the Ballon d’Alsace
its austere Jansenists reciting the Old Testament
its circus ballerinas standing on their obedient chargers
its D. Litt.’s arguing about Judeo-Christian expression in the
discourse of Höldits obese Irishwomen buying cans of beer and salted pickles
in a Bronx delicatessen
Here the sky is blue or soon will be
Let’s forget the age’s stridencies
tornadoes and fog
Let’s listen to the birds singing
the cats purring in the library alongside Bescherelle’s
quiet daily sounds
the heart beating

From George Perec’s Lines read at the wedding of Alix-Cléo Blanchette and Jacques Roubaud
You can read the whole poem here:

I don’t subscribe to the Paris Review, but I do get an email bulletin of highlights, and you can opt in to receive a poem a day.


9 thoughts on “Cats purring in the library

            1. Here is a wonderful poem written by my sister and other half of this blog It appeared in Best Australian poems of 2014 If you check out 2 November 2014
              She is a highly regarded poet published both here and overseas. ( But perhaps overly modest.)

              11 things I know about my father

              There are snakes in our fernery

              my mother says

              it should be pulled down

              but my father has no common sense

              I have learned this early

              the house is falling down

              around our ears my mother says

              while my father stands over the stove

              stirring a pot of soup

              and whistling sadly

              there are rats in the shed

              among the knee-deep

              piles of sawdust and the

              lengths of wood and boxes

              of dried paint and leaking oil

              he stands among the rats

              making chess sets

              while the back door flaps

              off its hinges and the

              bathroom floor rots

              he is famous

              for being clever

              dogs love him


              he can speak Latin

              we must not upset him

              Other Gert

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