Cat in Hell's

written by, and read by, © Peter Howard.
Won second prize in the 1994 Canterbury Festival Poetry Competition, also in collection Game Theory

Is it perverse? Will it buy me a ticket to heaven?
What is the point of wasting one's time on sestinas,
Squandering this interlude (too brief) before I am dead,
And writing (of all things) about an imaginary creature:
The experimental, provocative, Schrödinger's cat?
What is the reasoning? Is there a rational function?

Suppose I were standing alone at some evening function,
And some gorgeous woman (who must have dropped straight down from heaven)
Started to talk to me, what would I say if the cat
Had my tongue? I could casually mention I bash out sestinas,
About science to boot. Don't you think I'd win over the creature,
Be the toast of the party and knock every one of them dead?

In the long run, of course, we're every last one of us dead.
Whatever we've done with our lives, we'll soon cease to function:
That's the sad fate of each one of us poor bare forked creatures.
That's a misquote. I know. Sorry about it, but Heavens
Above! It is hard enough trying to write a sestina,
And especially one where the subject is Schrödinger's cat.

It's perhaps about time I explained about Schrödinger's cat.
It is locked in a box with some poison. Perhaps it is dead,
And perhaps it is not. If you read to the end, this sestina
Will try to explain. If the atom decays then the function
Of this little gadget's to send off the feline to heaven,
And ours to observe: should we cuddle or bury the creature?

As I said, it's not real; it is just an imaginary creature,
So don't get yourself too wound up about Schrödinger's cat.
It breathes fantasy poison; it goes to imaginary heaven;
It imagined it lived, and doubtless imagines it's dead.
So what, (you may ask) is its real (not imaginary) function?
And what is the thing doing buggering up this sestina?

Well, it isn't the purpose of this (indeed any) sestina
To dictate the fate of even the least of God's creatures.
If you haven't decided the nature of this verse's function
By now, I don't think I'd give you better odds than a cat
In hell's chance of succeeding: I think you should think yourself dead
Lucky - you won't get another one this side of heaven!

The challenge: to write a sestina on Schrödinger's cat.
Pity the creature: it's not alive nor is it dead.
Its wave function's a stretched violin string from here to heaven.