Twenty-Three Cats

By Sandy Anderson

There were twenty-three cats in Larry’s basement.

He noticed the noise, but I don’t think

he ever counted them.  He kept putting

can after can of food on the top step,

and sometimes he threw down catnip.

When the noise was too loud

he just turned up the radio.

Once in a while he would cross paths

with a huge grey tom or a tiger kitten

crossing the kitchen and wonder

where it came from, didn’t remember

seeing it before.  The truth was,

he didn’t much like cats.


Sarah found him at the Terminal Bar and Grill.

He was sober, for a change.

She thought he was cute, and she loved cats.

He said he had 3 of them.  They danced

and danced, and she told him her life story

in cats.  It turned out neither of them

were arriving or leaving, they just liked

the aura of planes, the anonymity of travelers.


Their last date was the night he took her home

to meet his cats.  The first thing she noticed

was the smell.  She wondered how 3 cats

could produce so much stench.

A ragged Siamese came into the kitchen,

and she asked its name between calling,

“Here kitty, kitty.”  Larry looked befuddled,

did cats have names—and how did he find them,

did he look at baby name lists

or thumb the phone book or dictionary?

Sarah continued calling here kitty, and the Siamese

ignored her, but other cats heeded her voice

and the basement stairs became an escalator of cats.

Larry began to wonder how many there were,

but Sarah definitely counted twenty-three

and wondered if there were more.  She picked up

an emaciated kitten and ran from the house

without saying goodbye.


Larry was dumfounded, how did that kitten

get so skinny with all the food he put on the stairs.

He sighed and for the first time in years

began the long sober journey down the stairs

where there was an entire other life.


Sandy Anderson has been published in many magazines, including Weber StudiesSugarhouse ReviewLucid Moon, and Limberlost Review. In 1978, Ghost Planet Press published her book At the Edge in White Robes. She has also published the chapbook Jeanne Was Once a Player of Pianos, with Limberlost Press. Her poetry was recently published in the anthology New Poets of the American West, edited by Lowell Jaeger. Her awards include the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Award in Literature in 1997, and the Writers at Work Writing Advocate Award in 1995.

Currently, she works as a piano teacher and has enjoyed volunteer positions as judging chair for the Piano Federation Festival and Utah Chairman for Music Achievement Program. She has been involved in the literary community since the 1960s, and is the founder of City Art, the longest-running reading series in Utah. She was the editor of the award-winning literary magazine Wasatch Front, which won first place in the literary magazine category at the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Press Association. She has been artist in residence at several local high schools and has given workshops to many different groups, including Veterans and the disabled.

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