Omar Pérez’s Did You Hear About the Fighting Cat?

J’Lyn here. As editor-in-chief, I work with Bombay Gin book reviewers closely, usually over the course of three or four drafts. Below, you will find a little teaser from Kelly Alsup’s delightful review of Omar Pérez’s Did You Hear About the Fighting Cat?, which you can find in Bombay Gin 38.1. Kelly is a graduate of the Jack Kerouac School and a dear friend, who I am so happy has stuck around after graduating to be an important part of the Boulder community.

You can buy Pérez’s book through Small Press Distribution, and the publisher, Shearsman Books, also offers a downloadable sample.

So, to exist with both desire and its limitation is not to fight to the death so much as to keep the suppleness—that, in the daylight, sleeks its contours constant and fleetingly—alive through its dimmer, or darker, hours, striking the match newly each time. The alertness to the flashing or shuddering moment that the fighting cat carries in the world is the wakefulness to “transience” and “variance in voltage” that stirs in these poems. It is the presence and everydayness of Zen that accepts conflict as much as it dissolves it. This wisdom, then, answers Pérez’s own question, posed earlier in the collection:

With the wood from this tree, coffin

with the wood from the coffin, pyre

on the pyre man grows toward zero

so what do we do now?

“Sustain / Sustain them / you sustain them.” What “grows toward zero” is

embryo moving always toward victory

down the alley with no exit to eternity

At the end a boy!

And you do not abandon the boy. The tomcat, Love, lichen. To learn to blink—a way of maintaining alertness or even relax into sleep—is to learn to stop abandoning the moment to fear, fantasy, distraction. A primary founder of American Zen, Shunryu Suzuki, reminds: “Moment after moment to watch your breathing, to watch your posture, is true nature.”

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