DESCENDING – a Cat’s Death

Love by ambition
Of definition
Suffers partition
And cannot go
From yes to no…

W. H. Auden, Too Dear, Too Vague


Tonight, somewhere between eleven and twelve-thirty, Thijs died. He brought the jungle into our home.

Thijs for me was always Bagheera, the Black Panther from Jungle Book and Mowgli’s best friend – the most feared animal of them all. Booooh! he says to the evil serpent.

Thus my mind’s eye is seeing him, with help from the camera eye:



That gleameye he had from his Mother Saar, that sweetie pie who, together with father Plato, put Thijs in this world.


Mother Saar

Saar was timid and a little bit skittish. Plato, or Plaat, was a jocular type with an IQ of around 70.


Father Plato

Thijs was born on the bed of Esther, just that rare day when she was far gone from the house. Saar forgot to bite through the umbilical cord that kept her connected to this son. So, the house surgeon went to work and divorced mother and son, cutting the cord with a pair of sterilized nail scissors.

The next day Plato was allowed to visit the mother of the newly born-born. The first thing he did was ‘game play’. With a flick of his left leg, which at that moment was still there, he slapped the little pile of nothingness which was later christened ‘Thijs’ right from the bed. Just saved, I feared that the worm was still going to die a horrible death. But young life survives against all odds.

Thijs’ intelligence must surely have come from Dad. Along with his inscrutable look of The Black Panther, his silliness surely gave him always a mysterious impression. Many years of the fifteen which he was allowed to live, he sat on our windowsill – exalted in his gentle jungle. Cats like small heights.



A kopje they call it in South Africa, the hillock on which the lioness, sometimes the lion, is dozing and keeps watch over her children. You can see everything coming and going nicely from up there.

Years ago Thijs’ spine began to curve. At first we thought that some gymnastics and some special training could remedy this. Then it became clear that something was growing together in his spine. Thijs began to lose his grandeur. But a sweet boy he remained

It took a long time. A few weeks ago he did not manage to climb via the chair on to his kopje on the window sill; a few times he fell from the chair’s railing. So, it had to be one step lower. The seat of the chair was covered with an extra pillow and from there he managed to reasonably keep an eye on our little world. Still, his head no longer seemed quite at.



Sometimes, after having had his meal on the floor, he did not feel like clambering up the chair any longer. Sooph, his girlfriend, still came by to play, but nothing came of it. Surprised, she looked down at him, and then just disappeared.


Sooph and Thijs

Thus, Everyman’s life descends the steps. Ten, twelve days ago the chair became also too high for him. On the floor a hospital bed was prepared, complete with private toilet and food plus beverage via pipettes, sometimes from a bowl held to his mouth. Then also the love for food and drink died away.



In that hospital bed I found him last night.



See his dead little head hanging over the edge, as if shortly before dying he looked down, ready for the last step to take – descending into the grave.

This morning, in a drizzling rain, I dug the hole. There he lies now, wrapped in a shroud, capped by a stone, with a solid layer of earth on top. Ready to perish. Of a featherweight, so light that the wind might also have blown him away.



Dust to dust, ashes to ashes – period.

Sierksma, Haarlem 4.2.16


Author: rjsiersk

Sierksma was born in Friesland, a 'county' in the northern part of the Netherlands with its own language which he does not speak and with an obstinate population to which he both belongs and does not belong. A retired Professor of Social Philosophy and Aesthetics, as a Harkness fellow he taught at Rutgers and Berkeley Universities in the USA, and at GUAmsterdam and TUDelft in the Netherlands. In 1991 he was awarded his PhD from Leiden University on the subject of 'Surveillance and Task: Labour Discipline between Utilitarianism and Pragmatism'. His books include Minima Memoria (1993), Lost View (2002 with Jan van Geest), and Litter Scent (2013). He has published poems and articles in Te Elfder Ure, Nynade, Oasis and the Architectural Annual. Half the year he lives in Haarlem, the other half he spends in la France Profonde, living ‘in his own words’ as the house out there was bought with the winnings from his essay Eternal Sin, written for the ECI Essay Prize (1993). In this blog, Sierksma's Sequences, written in English, he is peeping round his own and other people’s perspectives. Not easily satisfied with answers nor with questions, he turns his wry wit to a number of philosophical and historical issues. His aim in writing: to make parts of the world light up in his perspective - not my will, thine! Not being a thief, he has no cook, one wife, some children, one lover and three cats.

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