Red Cherry Red
Created: 27th August, 2015

The nine lives of the cat Mandu

When I was born
I was a familiar,
a black cat, Satan’s favourite form.

Next life – I was in a room
you couldn’t swing a cat in.
Outside it was raining cats and dogs.

It was a small house in a mews.
Soon I was like a cat on hot bricks, 
like a cat on a hot tin roof –

until I fell off and landed on my feet.
I was sleek, sly, mysterious.
I was the cat’s pyjamas.

I set the cat among pigeons.
I let the cat out of the bag.
One night, playing cat and mouse,

I lost a life under a white car,
my own dead form lit up by cat’s eyes.
I came back ginger with long whiskers.

I escaped a catalogue of catastrophes.
I have good lives. I was worshipped
in Ancient Egypt, I was a Siamese,

a Manx, a sphinx, a Persian, a Burmese.
I lived lives of exquisite ease –
until I had bad catarrh in Catalonia.

I purred a catechism, prayed for baptism,
but fell into a catatonic state. No cat nap – 
I was kaput. Capisch? My final date.

Why not try...
  • finding out more about the meanings and origins of the expressions in this poem. Can you add any more of your own?


Jackie Kay - The Nine Lives of the Cat Mandu