She sights a Bird—she chuckles—
She flattens—then she crawls—
She runs without the look of feet —
Her eyes increase to Balls—
Her Jaws stir —twitching—hungry—
Her Teeth can hardly stand —
She leaps, but Robin leaped the first—
Ah, Pussy, of the Sand,
The Hopes so juicy ripening—
You almost bathed your Tongue—
When Bliss disclosed a hundred Toes—
And fled with every one—
F350 (1862) 507
Ah, Dickinson is not one of those cat owners who struggles to keep her cat from killing birds. Fortunately for the birds of Amherst, the poet’s kitty isn’t quick enough—or at least isn’t quick enough for the robin of this poem.
Anyone who has watched a cat stalk a bird can see it recreated in this charming poem. It’s meant to be read, and I picture it read with lots of acting and out and gestures. I bet Dickinson entertained her young nieces and nephews with it.
The first two stanzas describe the cat creeping up on the bird, practically salivating in anticipation, but then being disappointed. The third stanza changes from third person to second person as the speaker addresses the cat directly in a mock sympathetic tone. The last two lines portray “Bliss” as being so fleet and hard to catch that it is as if it has “a hundred Toes.” Poor kitty—its bliss fled with all hundred of them.
Dickinson employs a very regular structure: each stanza has two lines of iambic trimeter, a line of iambic tetrameter, and then another of trimeter. It’s a very recitable meter. The rhyme scheme is ABCB, which helps the verbal enjoyment.