The River: Necessary to the poem by A. F. Harrold

This post is part of the river of stones guest post series. The river of stones is our mindful writing challenge. Properly notice one thing each day, and write it down. Click here to find out more. Our guest post series features writers talking about the art of noticing, writing and more… 

Today we’re delighted to host A.F. Harrold
A.F. writes: It’s very kind of Fiona and Kaspa to invite me to contribute a post to this month of looking at things. I thought the best thing I could do, rather than blabber on, is simply offer a poem with a couple of words of introduction. I hope that satisfies.
Almost everything necessary to the poem is in the poem, it’s not something that needs tremendous unpacking, but it is something that’s been lurking, waiting to be written for some time.
After my dad died, years ago now, I began to notice that only two dead people seemed to appear in my dreams – occasionally and unspectacularly. He was one of them, and in those dreams I always knew he was dead, and that this was a bit weird. The other was my first cat, from when I was a kid, and in these dreams I never realised he was no longer alive – he walked in as if he hadn’t been gone for all that time.
That strange difference of awareness intrigued me, and so after a more recent dream with my more recently dead mother and the cat I made a stab at capturing it. This poem is a slightly polished version of that stab. It’s getting there.

When I was five you got me a cat.
He was a kitten, but I don’t remember him like that.
To me he’s just a remarkable old tom,
keeps himself to himself, is as ginger as dawn.
Two flashes of personality leap to mind:
one, how he’d do handstands for a lick of melon rind;
and, two, that day he brought home a prize,
not common headless bird or exsanguinated mouse,
but a slab of uncooked steak,
stolen through someone’s backdoor from an unguarded plate.
We cut it up for him, never mentioned it outside the house.
I’m thirty-six, writing this, and still see that cat.
Saw him last night in fact,
in a garden that appears
to be one I’ve not seen for something like nine years,
behind a house I’ve not lived in for eighteen,
with you, who’s been gone for one.
He’s visited before, has never grown dead,
just grown old.
He’s become huge, dense and fragile,
like a moth-attacked awkward stuffed animal.
I’m afraid to pick him up in case he’s stiff, like a dog.

Last night we sat there, you and I, and looked at him.
Did the maths in the afternoon sun:
thirty-six minus five.
A record-breaking cat to be so old and still alive.
Surprised by the facts, I didn’t notice how wrong we’d been,
not until I’d woken and looked again,
and then it struck, and struck hard:
it’s not the cat who walks my dreams who’s got old,
it’s me.
Morning by morning, ceaselessly.
*  *  *

A.F. Harrold is an English poet (1975 – present). He writes and performs for adults and children, in cabaret and in schools, in bars and in basements, in fields and indoors. 

He is the owner of many books, a handful of hats, a few good ideas and one beard. 
He is available for hire at fairly reasonable rates. 

Find out more at

Comments & replies

6 thoughts on “The River: Necessary to the poem by A. F. Harrold

  1. Claudine G.

    Oh my, what a glowing poem. I dream of my first cat, too. In those dreams recently, she’s ‘mixed’ with my current cat. It’s not our dead cats alive in dreams who’ve changed. It’s us, indeed. We’ve changed. They’ve merely come to tell us that.

  2. alfred booth

    This poem is a wonderfuland sensitive tribute to those of our ghosts, human and others, who populate our dreams and do indeed help us grow. Death visiits my dreams; not my own ghosts, to my sad regret. I only wish my first three cats visited. M’y fourth snores every now and then!

    Thank you for sharing this poetic silice of your life.

  3. Carolyn

    I loved this poem, it was so soft, sad, profound and awakened memories of my own dreams where my step-father, who died in 1998, walks in and it is like he never left, except, I kow he is no longer with us. The way you describe your dreams, your cats is so very moving. Thank you for this wonderful gift of a poem.

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