The Cat

The Cat
by Ariadne Clifton

Yugoslavia, 1943

Each morning on his way to work, 
my grandfather walks along the southern bank 
of the Danube river. Today on the far side he sees 
the red hammer and sickle of the Soviet army 
as it gathers to cross our bridge. 
We must immediately 

My mother, my aunt and my grandmother 
rush about packing essentials,
crying, praying. The house smells 
of newly washed linens, of the freshly baked bread just delivered 
for breakfast. The china on the table is not yet cleared. 
Some silver spoons are packed into a suitcase 
for future barter. The clock chimes in its regular fashion 
as though there is nothing unusual this day. 
The cupboard doors senselessly open and close 
with no change to their interiors. The sunlight angles 
through the leaves creating patterns on the tablecloth. 
Which coat? Which shoes? 
While the old grey and white cat, Masha, frightened 
by such commotion, runs corner to corner, 
about to be abandoned 



Ariadne Clifton explores and tells her personal story through her poetry. She was born in Yugoslavia to Russian parents, who were forced to flee their country during the 1917 Revolution. At the time of the Second World War, her family once again fled the communists in Yugoslavia. She spent the first six years of her life in refugee camps with her grandparents. The Russian language and the mysticism of her Russian Orthodox faith hold her fast to her family, her heritage, and their losses.

Cover texture by Ava Verino (Flikr) [CC by 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.