When Gorilla Goes Walking

Posted September 11th, 2012

Gorilla Goes WalkingGodzilla. That was the original name of my feline character. I chose the name because it expressed the size and ferocity of her personality. It was also a bit of a joke, of course, because she was very small and, well, kittenish. But don’t tell her that!

As perfect as her chosen name was, I had to change it. I did so under duress, mind you. When the manuscript made its way into copyediting, I was informed that that the name Godzilla was owned by Warner Bros. and that I did not have the right to use it. Excuse me? I was miffed, to say the least. But what can you do? So, I set about trying to come up with another name that could convey similar attributes. The spelling of the name also needed to work, syllabically (is that a word?) with the meter of all the already-written poems. Gorilla came as close as I could get to satisfying those needs.

As for Gorilla’s (nee Godzilla’s) pedigree, she is a Manx.

Hanging with Debra Jackson and Gail Broadnax, my buds back in the day. Debra’s the one styling with the hat.

My best friend, Debra, had a Manx when she was growing up. That cat had personality and attitude to spare, and I loved her for it! In fact, she was the first feline to ever win my heart. She was very much her own person, and a natural born character. I’d no idea I’d end up writing a book inspired by her, though.

Still BFFs! Here, we’re on our way to the IMAGE Awards the year I won for Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope.

I’ve owned a few cats in my time, but I haven’t had one in years. Still, on my school visits, I’m frequently asked what my favorite pet is. I always say cats. Technically, though, that’s incorrect. Cats are not pets. Anyone who lives with a cat knows that, in the feline-human relationship, the human belongs to the cat, not the other way around! Anyway, the constant questions about my favorite pet brought back memories of my first close feline encounter. In other words, they reminded me of that Manx.

The scenarios in When Gorilla Goes Walking are imaginary, but I wouldn’t call them fictional. After all, cats do hiss at dogs, battle with houseplants, and curl up with their humans when a little love is needed, don’t they? And like Gorilla, all cats rule. Anyone who’s ever been owned by a feline can tell you that!

I’ve got a few favorite poems in this collection, but you’ll have to find your own. I’ll close with one of mine.

Learning the Rules

At first it wasn’t easy
remembering who was boss,
whose turn it was to catch the ball,
whose turn it was to toss.
But now I’ve got the hang of it.
(Housebreaking was a snap.)
I scratch Gorilla’s belly when
she commandeers my lap.
I switch the sunlamp on for her
if it’s a cloudy day.
I run, I jump, I fetch, unless
my master turns away
and stretches ‘cross the carpet,
reclining still as stone,
ignoring me until I see
she wants to be alone.

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