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.

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  • finding out more about the meanings and origins of the expressions in this poem. Can you add any more of your own?

Resources

Videos

Jackie Kay The Nine Lives of the Cat Mandu

Jackie Kay - The Nine Lives of the Cat Mandu