The 9 Lives of Mine Cats
The 9 Lives of Mine Cats
A set of 9 hand-sewn fabric cats with unique narrative poems held in a booklet inside their stomachs.
From the artist:
“These screen-printed fabric stuffed cats have the words “This Space Is Mine” and “Violate Me” printed on the stomachs. Inside are small hand-sewn books with hand-stamped stories. The stories are poems I wrote expressing my feelings about being young, about aging, and becoming a parent. There are also stories inspired by members of my family and friends.”
Cat 1: “Violate Me.”
This cat has a closed stomach without a book.
(The idea with this piece is that while it says “violate me” on its stomach, it is impossible to “violate” the cat by opening the womb. Every other cat holds a story in their womb. The viewer must “violate” each cat in order to read the poem. This is meant to ask the viewer to contemplate the concept of consent. How do we determine that consent has been granted? Is it by words? Body language? Are we truly able to grant consent if we do not have full autonomy over our bodies? How is “violation” determined in our society not just through laws, but also through culture and language?)
Cat 2: “She Is.”
She is focused, building her world. Independently. Exactly as she needs. In love with living.
(I wrote this poem about a friend who was happy being single, who envisioned herself in perpetual solitude. She did not want or need a partner to be happy.)
Cat 3: “Her Day Is No Poem.”
Her shoes are tight, and knots line her hands. With her forehead folded and faded eyes, she returns, exhausted. Finding words for her is like her labor. She longs for rest in an easy moment without subtlety.
(Written to honor the life and struggles of my great grandmother who worked as a seamstress in a textile sweatshop in the early 20th century. She raised her kids alone after her husband left, and witnessed the horrific tragedy of the neighboring building, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.)
Cat 4: “She Begs.”
The way she talks. She listens for him. The clothes she wears, She starves for him. She works to get him. She exists for him. Her lips lie. She does not fight. Her hips say yes. There was no force. Therefore, she deserves it.
(This cat tells the story of my friend who was raped by her boyfriend in high school. These were some of the things that he said to her afterward in his attempt to justify his actions and prevent her from reporting to the police.)
Cat 5: “S/he.”
She was born a he. People are confused. She does not fit a neat category. But her life is not theirs. This concern for her gender needs to be unlearned.
(This cat honors a college friend who spoke about her gender transition as a journey away from neat boxes of categorization. She encouraged collective unlearning for gender liberation, and on her recommendation, many folks in our friend group at that time read the book “Transgender Warriors” by Leslie Feinberg.)
Cat 6: “Is This Mine.”
When we allow them to keep taking… abstinence only ‘education’… no contraceptive coverage… ban of emergency contraception… no funds for abortion providers… twenty-four-hour waiting periods… ‘informed consent’ law…parental consent law… ‘unborn victims of violence’ act… all that may be left… metal coat hanger
(After I had an abortion, I began learning about all the horrendous anti-abortion laws being passed around the United States. The laws included taking away contraceptive coverage and trying to remove all reproductive health options for people with a uterus. At the time many activists were concerned that the constant chipping away would result in making abortion illegal, which we are now facing in many states across this country with the reversal of Re v. Wade.
Cat 7: “She Loves.”
Each day she wakes them with song. They stretch and smile. They comfort each other. In everyday life they are entwined.
(I wrote this poem about my mother. She woke my brother and I up every day of elementary school with the song “You are My Sunshine.” Now that I am a mother myself, I find myself feeling entwined with my child and I often sing him to sleep with the same poem my mother sang; “winken, blinken, and nod.”)
Cat 8: “She Ages.”
Empty womb. Wrinkling Skin. Fragile Body. Dimming Memories. Who Is a woman. When she ages, without her sexy skin, Is she lost to you?
(This poem honors my many relatives who have lived to be in their 90’s and 100’s. The matriarchs in my family were amazing story tellers who lit up a room and could entertain us for hours. My grandmother’s cousin Fannie often said “Beautiful you have to be? NO! Lucky you have to be!”)
Cat 9. “Widow.”
Her nose loses smells. Her tongue laps up sorrow. Forms blend together. Touch is transparent. Regret lives in her lips. She goes through motions lacking passion. Though she has her self, her lover is lost. And half of her has passed.
(With this poem I tried to put into words the experiences of several of my grandparents who lost their partners, both during and before my lifetime.)”
Created in 2005 with support from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, one of the oldest feminist granting agencies in the United States.