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Maneki Neko:
The Japanese Legend of the Beckoning Cat
Rendered in Verse by Catt Wilbur

 

 

So much of life is a mystery,
Just a heartbeat away from tragedy; 
But then, we find a good luck charm, 
That seems to keep us safe from harm. 

Who can explain? Oh, who can tell why?
Who can affirm or who can deny 
The power of the talisman 
That works again . . . again . . . again. 

Was there a moment back in time, 
A magic instant -- rare, sublime -- 
When from that void, that great unknown,
Sprang an enchanted force full-blown?

 

If such a moment could exist, 
When the plight of man by fate was kissed,
Then there was one in that shadowed yore
Of history, legend, apocryphal lore, 

When a sweet small cat faced uncertain fate,
When all hope seemed to evaporate; 
The temple where this poor cat dwelled, 
By poverty had been sorely felled. 

All the monks, save one, had been forced to flee
To more bountiful shores for their charity; 
And the one that the others had left behind, 
Almost less than enough to survive could find.

And yet this beneficent holy man shared 
With the innocent cat for whom he cared, 
What small morsels of food and drink he had --
The poor monk's largess made the little cat sad.

 

Tama, the cat, sat outside of the gate 
Of the temple; he pondered what seemed a dire fate;
For the time had come to strike out on his own, 
To fend for himself in a strange world alone. 

'Til then Tama'd lived every day of his life 
In the temple's kind shelter, protected from strife;
But the food from the monk's mouth he'd savor no longer;
Though fearful, his love for the monk was the stronger.

So Tama had ventured beyond the safe wall,
Outside of the gateway he felt a chill pall; 
If he stopped for a moment, in fear hesitated,
Just think on the dangers this cat contemplated.

The same golden orb that shone down on poor Tama,
With equal abandon lit a Samurai's drama; 
Lord Ii was the master of all his domain; 
He had hundreds of servants to shield him from pain.

 

 

He had a brave son and a dutiful wife; 
He had all one could wish for a beautiful life. 
On the day that we speak of, he took a long stroll,
Surveying the vast lands in his sole control. 

Thus, the poor crumbling temple loomed into his view,
A sight of decay he'd not seen hitherto. 
"I shall have it torn down," thought Lord Ii with disdain;
Of the loss of this eyesore, sure none could complain.

So the great lord stood thinking beneath a tall tree --
Perhaps he'd have gardens replace the debris --
The sun, at this thought, hid behind a dark cloud,
And a huge clap of thunder rang threateningly loud.

At the same time, Lord Ii saw an uncommon sight:
A little cat beck'ning with all of its might, 
Enticing the lord to the old temple gate, 
Inspired in its waving by some unknown fate.

 


 

Amazed, the lord moved toward the cat without thought,
Then in further amazement the stunned lord was caught,
As a fierce bolt of lightning struck, lethal and mean,
Where, but for the cat, the great lord would have been.

So the Samurai showered his undying gratitude 
On the wonderful cat with the beckoning attitude; 
He restored the poor temple to glorious magnificence,
And honored the cat and the monk with munificence.

And thus has it happened, to this time from that,
That an image of Tama, the beckoning cat, 
Kept in business or home attracts riches galore,
True love, health and happiness in ample store. 

This mysterious power of sweet Tama's depiction
May be viewed by the faithless as nothing but fiction;
Yet those who have lived with it under their roofs
Have seen daily its visible, bountiful proofs.

 

 

So judge for yourself, but heed this thought well,
The Maneki Neko with its small gold bell 
Is not only a joy for the eye to see, 
But pleasures the mind with its mystery. 

Maneki Neko, the Lucky Cat 
Saved the life of a great aristocrat, 
And earned for himself immortality 
As a lucky charm for thee and me.

Copyright (c) Text 2001 by Catt Wilbur

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Page last updated:
04/17/10