Cats of Kotor

woke up this morning hungry
and walked along the Bay of Kotor
there’s a market down there
past the sailboats
down the gravel road

I went looking for the kittens that I saw last night
and their protective Mother
I found two short-haired cow-print kittens
and a little grey one
all cuddled up
the grey one didn’t look up
I blew her kisses
she never turned her head
I petted her little body with my index finger
felt her spine
she was all bones
not much flesh
I think she was dying

the other two kittens; each had an eye missing
the Mother sat close by and got up once to lick them
they sat quietly in an opening of the large stone wall along the water
a rectangular shaped hole in the middle of the wall
with rusty iron bars

As I watched I heard another kitten crying from the other side of the wall which stood about ten feet high

there is nothing I hate more than the sound of hungry animals crying 
there is nothing I hate more than the sound of hungry animals crying
there is nothing I hate more than the sound of hungry animals crying
there is nothing I hate more than the sound of hungry animals crying

finding footing in the nook
I climbed the stone wall
and the dog walkers looked at me as if I were mentally ill
I saw another black and white kitten on the other side of the wall
meowing please mommy feed me I’m hungry
she was looking into my eyes from the patch of purple flowers
she was pawing at the wall trying to get to her Mother and sisters and brothers

stretched out from back to front paws
she was maybe 12 inches long 
she cried wahhhh wahhh wahhh wahhhh
wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

she had five feet left
to get up to the nest of her siblings 
to get to her Mother’s love
and for that kitty in the purple flowers
her Mother didn’t budge

I could have hurled myself over to rescue the little one 
but I would have broken my ankle
like Dustin Hoffman in Papillon

I walked further down the street to the market on the corner
where locals and tourists were gathered at 7:00 a.m. 
waiting for the store to open

when it opened I walked up and down its lonely lanes
listening to customers and clerks speak in various foreign languages
I bought oranges and water and sardines and bananas
and two mega sized cans of tuna

I carried my groceries back past the sail boats and the dog walkers
I saw the Mother cat with her two kittens
but the grey one was gone
maybe her Mother pushed her over
down into the purple flowers to join the other one

when I petted the grey one earlier
her chin was leaning on the edge of the stone
facing down towards the flowers

I thought of Mickey Rourke in Spun: “my mom was drowning puppies in the bath tub. She said, why keep what you can’t feed?”

I opened the cans of tuna 
and with a lid tossed some of the tuna over the wall
aiming for the spot where I’d seen the hungry cat trying to crawl
then I set the cans down near the kitten’s nest

two healthier cats smelled the tuna
slouched their way over
one black, one butterscotch vanilla

jetlag
a big wave hit me
I did all I could have done
I walked back to the hotel breakfast room
the maid, who seems to have taken a liking to me, Mirjana,
saw me eating my eggs like a hungry prisoner and said
“easy, easy”

I came back to my room
a complimentary book has been on my bed stand since I arrived here

Svetski Bestseller #1
DANIELLE STEEL
1 pokalnjamo vam
povraturne kartu
do new york -a
KNJIGA
SAD I ZAUVEK
super ljubavni roman

I couldn’t fall asleep
Mirjana came and knocked on my door

“Here are some towels. Come eat! Eat! Eat! You must eat some more!”

“Give me a few minutes” I said, “I’ll be right over”

“Oh youuuuuuu, Maaaarrrrrrrrk. Come now!”

And when I walked towards the breakfast area

She ordered me to “Go get the others! I have all of this food left over!”

“I can’t wake them,” I told her. “They’re sleeping and they need their rest”

“Tell me,” she said, “Why do you look like this? So sad all the time? So tired. Why so sad?”

“I’m jetlagged. My clock is off. Please knock on my door later around 5 PM and wake me up and you’ll see a much happier me. You might even see a smile.”

She said in her Serbian accent, “I will do that. Do you know who you remind me of? John Malkovich”

I ate some cereal and scrambled eggs and went back to bed.

She knocked on my door an hour early. 4:00 pm.

“Mark, wake up!”

I picked my pants up from the floor put on some slippers and my t-shirt and decided to swim in the Bay of Kotor
same shirt I’ve been wearing for the last three days

then I walked down the path of oleanders and wisteria and agave to the bay
my stomach growled with hunger so I kept walking past the boats and the sun bathers and the skinny cats to Restoran Ellas

The waitress, Sandra, took my order

“Fish soup with Greek salad please and a coffee with milk please and a large bottle of sparking water, please”

I looked across the aqua fresh Crest toothpaste colored water
at the town of Muo with the little stucco houses with the Spanish roofs
I asked Sandra what the orange things were floating out in the water
she said “they’re called bova and they have nets and they harvest black mussels”

on my walk back to the hotel I jumped into the Bay of Kotor
As I walked along the mossy rocks
the moss soothed the bottom of my feet
I was wading in the seaweed
Looking at the girls layin’ out in their bikinis
I never wrote a song about girls in bikinis
If I did maybe I’d have a hit like The Beach Boys

I saw a bandmate walking down the road
he looked at me and said “Mark, soundcheck is
pretty soon. We’d better go.”

We rehearsed quickly. Mirjana heard the music echoing around the tile floored hotel, knocked, and asked if she could come listen.

She heard two songs and said “It’s like Steely Dan…. but craaaazy

Sea Rock Festival – July 21

From the start my guitar was out of tune so I set it on the stand and
I walked towards the front of the stage and howled to the castles up in the mountains and sang tunefully to the moon.

Ramon on guitar, Chris on Piano. They held their end stoically and steadily.

A nice, receptive, family-oriented crowd. I didn’t make adjustments for them. I gave them the good, the bad, the ugly. I sang Mother’s Love and 666 Post and I encouraged them to cheer for Andrew Golota though I doubt many there heard of him.

It was a fun night. Cathartic and exhilarating.

The next day at lunch a stray dog kept me company over at Ellas. The waiter came by and had the check in his hand in an oblong leather folder. He was asking me in Serbian if I was ready for the check (I thought that’s what he was asking) and when I nodded yes, he smacked the dog on the butt. The dog let out a high-pitched yelp and ran off. I stood up and said “why did you do that?” He said “dogs are a problem here”.

I went and found the dog and petted his head. Lured him back to my table with a piece of French bread. He sat next to my table. I told the waiter. “Don’t do that again. It’s ok. I like him near me”. The dog was picky and didn’t like the bread so I put a piece of penne pasta up to his nose instead and he bit my hand.

Finicky stray!  “That’s OK,” I told him. “Bite my hand all you want. Keep me company awhile. Your bites are nothing compared to the sick feeling I suffer every time I turn on American TV news channels”

I paid the check and left with my large bottle of sparking water and when I got up, Mirjana had just been seated at a nearby table with another maid.

She said, “Mark, I must tell you. You are like a machine. You Sleep, you eat, you shit, you make music. You are a machine”

I said “I guess so” and I went back to my room.

At about 9:00 pm Chris knocked on my door and woke me. Chris and Ramon and I took a cab into the old part of town for dinner. 

Before we left, three maids including Mirjana, who are always sitting down the cement walkway from me, drinking wine, coffee and smoking cigarettes, observing the comings and goings of passersby, started talking to us.

Mirjana told Chris and Ramon, with me standing right there, “I told Mark that he is a machine. He eats, sleeps, shits, and plays music. This man is a machine!“.

Then she introduced us to Ljiljana, whom I already met a bunch of times, and the other maid who has never spoken a word to me. Milica. 

Mirjana pointed to Milica and said “Mark, Milica has something to tell you. She wants to marry you”. I took a step back.

Then I smiled and said “Her and I have never spoken a word, but If I lived in Kotor, sure, I would marry her”. It all felt very lighthearted and humorous.

Then Milica corrected Mirjana in Serbian. Mirjana then said to me “I misunderstood. Milica said she wants to fuck you.”

Ramon and Chris and I let out an awkward giggle, then we were speechless. I politely asked Mirjana what her friend’s name was again.

“It’s Milica, you crazy man! You are craaazy!“.

Ramon saved me. “Hey you guys, I want to get going, I’m going to go get a cab”. That was our segue and Chris and I followed along.

But not before I told the maids, “you all have a nice life here. Drinking wine among friends, looking out at the bay. I’ve seen all of you at the restaurant down the street and laying out on the beach. This is a nice life you have, ending your days this way. It’s beautiful here. The smell of the salt water and the Italian pines”

Mirjana said “Fuck you, crazy man! You join us in the kitchen tomorrow! Work with us and see how good this life is, you fuck

“Hey,” I told her. “We all have to go to work. You think my life is glamourous? It took me 30 hours to get here and it’s going to take me 30 hours to get home”.

She said “I know. I know. You work hard, Mark. It’s true. I know. You know something? You look like John Malkovich.”

“I know” I said. “You told me that earlier”

I will never forget Mirjana. I think I’ll send her a postcard when I get back to San Francisco.

After having dinner in the old part of town, Ramon stayed to see some jazz and Chris and I came back with a plan to meet in five minutes down by the gate and go for a walk along the bay.

I walked down to my room and Milica appeared with a large empty water bottle.

“Water?” she asked.

I said that I’d be ok but for her to please wait and I’d bring her a CD (Mirjana said that Milica wanted a CD of my music). I gave her Mark Kozelek Night Talks and she shyly walked off towards their little smoking area and that’s the last I’ve seen of her.

I know the loneliness of the road but in that moment I knew the loneliness of the live-in maid.

Chris and I then walked along the bay and to my
usual spot, Ellas. The same place where the waitress explained the orange things that harvested mussels, and where the guy whacked the dog on the butt.

We had sparkling water and ice cream. Howe Gelb stopped by and said hi.

I’m back in my room now.

I’ve not turned on this TV since I’ve been here. Bliss.

It’s 3:29 a.m.

Goodnight

Mark Kozelek – Hotel Room. Kotor, Montenegro
7/23/2018

Today I awoke at 6:55 a.m. in time for breakfast.

Mirjana said to me “this thing you say last night… about how we have a good life… why? …. why?….” (I think she thought I was being patronizing but I wasn’t).

I said “Because I grew up in the middle of a bunch of cornfields, nowhere near The Adriatic Sea or the Bay of Kotor. You seem to have a nice bond with your co-workers and it seems like a nice place to relax and to look up at the moon at the end of the day. But this is my weekend trip and this is your everyday so I understand if you’re upset by what I said.”

She said “My friends only think of themselves. Never mind all of this beauty you see. It’s inside of here! (pointing to her chest).
Inside here is shit. They tell me, ‘Do this! Do that!’ This life is shit!

I got up and hugged her and told her that I meant no harm, that I meant well, that I understood she works very hard. We hugged for a long time. No nervous pats on the back.

She said “What will you do now, after breakfast?”

I said “I’ll go back to my room and get some sleep”

She told me to please come back before 10:00 a.m, when breakfast closes, and I said I’d try if I woke up in time. She wrote her name on a card and I told her I’d send her a postcard from San Francisco.

I went back to bed and woke up 12:25 pm.

Going to walk along the road to Ellas, past the stray cats and dogs and oleanders and agave and palm trees and sailboats and sunbathers. Taking a towel and plan to wade around in the Bay of Kotor one last time.

3:00 a.m. call tonight for our flight back to San Francisco.

I’m back in my room. It was overcast and I skipped swimming. I just shadow boxed four 3- minute rounds holding two bottles of water.

Mark Kozelek – 3:12 pm. Kotor, Montenegro
7/23/2018

Singer/Songwriter Mark Kozelek has released albums as Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon, and under his own name, as well as collaborations with Justin Broadrick (Godflesh) and drummer Jim White (Dirty Three). His latest, This Is My Dinner, will be released November 1 on Caldo Verde Records.