We are proud to present the winners of the inaugural Dead Cat Poetry Prize.
A huge thank you to everyone who entered and made our decisions so difficult.
Félicette and the Lightning by Eleanor Conlon
Félicette was a Paris street cat sent into space in 1963. She was killed after her successful space flight so scientists could examine the electrodes implanted in her brain.
A flash, a white streak through
Black singed nose hairs
Chasing tail, sweet rat scent
Burning through the carrot tops behind the bins
Wrapped up in myself
Strolling through the alleys easy as
Cloud to air.
Parlour-calm, the facility opens for
C341, best of the bunch
Wires crawl spider-like
Electrodes prickle, burrs
Glued to my foreleg and
Lodged stone-like in my skull
Cocooned in canvas, I first taste it
White and veined, blue cheese
Filched from a mousetrap
Its volts a melting stink
Carrying me sizzling
Cloud to cloud.
Ice bright Kodak lights my face for history
I could be anybody’s favourite pet
If volts didn’t frog-leap up inside me
Or straps hide the gripping of my claws.
Forty-two blistering seconds
Burn the rocket’s engine, nose cone
Nudges, shoves, carries me to weightlessness
Petrol in my fur when the lightning crackles
Bone deep, igniting me
Without breath, I am a storm
Of nine lives lived in one.
Afterwards, the jagged fall
Cloud to ground.
Jerking, a bird pinned under a paw
My heart struggles
A blooming trophy
And in my quivering eyes
The image of the endless.
We Met You as a Dead Thing by Beth Davies
A hit and run on the road outside our house.
While I stood there useless, my friend
was already googling 24-hour vets. I loved her
for how tenderly she wrapped you in her coat.
I held you in my arms as she searched for a box.
You weren’t quite stiff yet. When you shifted
with the rise and fall of my chest, I mistook my breath
for yours – the foolish necromancy of hope.
In the passenger seat, you lay curled in my lap.
I clutched the sides of your cardboard coffin,
trying to still the journey’s juddering.
We turned on the radio but didn’t sing along.
The vet found your microchip; we weren’t sure
whether to be relieved or saddened,
knowing for certain that someone loved you
enough to want to find you again.
Later we learnt your name.
In the photo your owners sent,
you looked so alive
I barely recognised you.
[content warning: infant loss]