Marianne Clarke Moore

Here you will find the Poem Peter of poet Marianne Clarke Moore


Strong and slippery, built for the midnight grass-party confronted by four cats,
 he sleeps his time away -- the detached first claw on his foreleg which corresponds
 to the thumb, retracted to its tip; the small tuft of fronds
 or katydid legs above each eye, still numbering the units in each group;
 the shadbones regularly set about his mouth, to droop or rise
 in unison like the porcupine's quills -- motionless. He lets himself be flat­
 tened out by gravity, as it were a piece of seaweed tamed and weakened by
 exposure to the sun; compelled when extended, to lie
 stationary. Sleep is the result of his delusion that one must do as
 well as one can for oneself; sleep -- epitome of what is to

 him as to the average person, the end of life. Demonstrate on him how
 the lady caught the dangerous southern snake, placing a forked stick on either
 side of its innocuous neck; one need not try to stir
 him up; his prune shaped head and alligator eyes are not a party to the
 joke. Lifted and handled, he may be dangled like an eel or set

 up on the forearm like a mouse; his eyes bisected by pupils of a pin's
 width, are flickeringly exhibited, then covered up. May be? I should say,
 might have been; when he has been got the better of in a 
 dream -- as in a fight with nature or with cats -- we all know it. Profound sleep is
 not with him, a fixed illusion. Springing about with froglike ac­

 curacy, emitting jerky cries when taken in the hand, he is himself
 again; to sit caged by the rungs of a domestic chair would be unprofit­
 able -- human. What is the good of hypocrisy? It
 is permissible to choose one's employment, to abandon the wire nail, the
 roly-poly, when it shows signs of being no longer a pleas­

 ure, to score the adjacent magazine with a double line of strokes. He can
 talk, but insolently says nothing. What of it? When one is frank, one's very
 presence is a compliment. It is clear that he can see
 the virtue of naturalness, that he is one of those who do not regard
 the published fact as a surrender. As for the disposition

 invariably to affront, an animal with claws wants to have to use
 them; that eel-like extension of trunk into tail is not an accident. To
 leap, to lengthen out, divide the air -- to purloin, to pursue.
 to tell the hen: fly over the fence, go in the wrong way -- in your perturba­
 tion -- this is life; to do less would be nothing but dishonesty.