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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Prosperity (05/11/06)

TITLE: The Merchant's Cat
By Kenn Allan


One night around the midnight hour,
When lamps were burning low,
A merchant ciphered his accounts
Within the murky glow.

The scattered ledgers told a tale
Of what might lie ahead;
Each column balanced with the next
In inks of black and red.

Against the hearthstone's dying flames
A feline form was etched;
She pried awake an amber eye,
Yawned several times, then stretched.

In contemplative mood she watched
The merchant hard at work,
And pondered an upcoming task
She could no longer shirk.

With grand resolve, she mustered strength
And sprang forth in a flash;
She landed firmly in between
Assets and Petty Cash.

"Forgive my bold intrusion, sir,"
But can we talk awhile?
Of late, I've pondered certain thoughts
Which I can't reconcile."

The merchant dropped his quill and sighed,
He had no time to chat;
But it was useless to ignore
This egocentric cat.

"Please keep it brief," the merchant said,
"I have a lot to do;
There's little profit to be made
From wasting time with you."

The cat replied, "I find your tone,
At best, quite condescending,
But hear me out and you'll be rich—
Of this I am depending.

"I've held my tongue a dozen years,
But now I must inquire—
How long before you'll freeze to death
If thrown into a fire?"

"Don't be absurd," the merchant growled,
"Of this there is no doubt:
When opposites are thus compared,
They both are cancelled out.”

"I thought as much," agreed the cat,
"Which brings me to my plight,
I've noticed inconsistencies—
To me, which don't seem right.

"In business you are shrewdly cold,
A scourge among your peers,
Manipulating the naive
And driving men to tears.

"Yet clearly you're a pious man,
Who warms a weekly pew;
You kneel in prayer most every night,
And tithe more than your due.

"Now, this is where I need your help,
Please tell me, if you can,
How opposites, like fire and ice,
Can thrive within one man."

The merchant glowered at the cat,
"How can you dare impart
The stain of impropriety
Upon my blameless heart?

"I don't expect a cat like you
To fully understand
Why business needs an iron fist,
While faith, an open hand."

"I see," replied the wily cat,
"My logic went astray;
I had assumed from watching you
It takes two hands to pray."

The merchant blushed with crimson hue,
Then stammered, "Listen here!
Although it's true I love my work,
My faith is quite sincere.

"The times I've haggled with the weak
And left them worse for wear
Are balanced by my tithes and gifts
And hours of fervent prayer."

The cat cocked back a puzzled ear,
"I didn't realize,
When greed fulfills a common good,
Your God must close His eyes."

"That isn’t so!" the merchant cried,
“God sees our every sin;
He knows the motives of our hearts,
From outside and within.

"But in our work and daily lives
We often must suppress
Some lesser aspects of our faith
To garner our success.”

A frigid silence filled the room,
The desk lamp sputtered out,
The cat's eyes flickered with the flame
Of one dispelled from doubt.

"There hangs a mask around your neck—
The virtues you extol;
When worn, it hides the face of greed
Which smirks within your soul.

"You deal with men and God the same,
With equal disregard;
You take advantage of their hopes,
And leave both bruised and scarred.

"In all, a sad and hopeless plan
To camouflage your fraud—
To bare your fangs for mortal men,
But wear a mask for God!"

The merchant winced and turned away,
Unable to reply;
He mulled the cat's indicting words,
Which he could not deny.

His eyes brimmed over with remorse,
"How could I be so cruel?
While thinking others were impressed,
In truth, I looked a fool.

"From this day forth I'll live by faith,
And never cheat again,
Or try to bribe the LORD my God,
With gold from broken men."

With that, he fell upon his knees,
To make amends and pray...

...the merchant's cat just sat and smiled
with nothing more to say.

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This article has been read 1924 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Trina Courtenay05/18/06
I loved this! Do hope it wins.
Sally Hanan05/18/06
Very clever. You really need to put these together in a book so that more people can enjoy them as much as we FWs do.
Jessica Schmit05/18/06
Creative, engaging. The topic was definately there, but maybe a little weak? I felt that the topic stressed here was mainly greed. I don't know, it could just be me. Anyway, a wonderful story and incredibly creative and well written.
Venice Kichura05/19/06
You never cease to inspire me! Wish I could write poetry like you! Perfect meter & rhyming, great message, etc..

I think I know who you are....
James Clem 05/19/06
Another winner (jealous mutterings). Jess may be right about the topic but it's 5's the rest of the way.
I'll put this on my fav list with your others.
Lynda Schultz 05/19/06
Can I get in line for your autograph? This is a winner to me.
Kenny Blade05/19/06
I have to agree that the subject is forced at best and a few of the lines aren't "rhythmic" enough to flow to the next. Having said that, this is one of the best peoms i have ever read. Great work!
Kenny Blade05/19/06
... one of the best POEMS I have ever read also...
Cassie Memmer05/20/06
Bravo! Old Scrooge should have had a cat like that! I this this poem is wonderful, flows nicely and a great message.
Maxx .05/20/06
Hmmm, a very good entry that I would love to be able to pen ... since I really can't do poetry. But, since the author is fairly obvious here (or I'm about to embarass myself!) I don't think it's up the the perfection of your prior two entries. I think it lacked the subtlty and polish of those. Again, however, you are such a strong writer that even your lesser works are contenders. This will score quite well! :-)
Amy Michelle Wiley 05/21/06
Ooo, I enjoyed this! My favorite line was "It takes two hands to pray." I did think it went a tad long, and a few times the meter was forced, but still a very strong piece.
Linda Watson Owen05/21/06
Oh, I love this too! As a cat lover, I can't help but grin from ear to ear with each of these creative and entertaining cat poems! What a delight!! Purr-fect!
Jan Ackerson 05/22/06
There's a lot to love here--tremendously clever rhymes, pleasant meter, a wise cat (I love cats!) and a great message. Returning to the cat, though--I think it weakens the poem. Why not a person?

That's just a personal preference, though--this poem is, like Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.
Rachel Rudd 05/22/06
This is excellent! I really liked the line "I had assumed from watching you
It takes two hands to pray." Wonderful!
Lynda Lee Schab 05/22/06
I loved this! Wonderful in every way! I actually enjoyed the length - I've written a couple similar poems myself and it's tough to tell a story in rhyme without seeming long-winded but this held my attention throughout. I wouldn't be surprised to see your name in the winner's circle again. Bravo! Blessings, Lynda
Anita Neuman05/22/06
My favourite line was "two hands to pray" as well. Brilliant! I kept waiting for the significance of the cat. Why a cat? And that question was left unanswered. But you did keep me intrigued right to the end and your message is unmistakable.
Dr. Sharon Schuetz05/23/06
Another masterpiece. I loved it. You have such a gift. Thanks.
Edy T Johnson 05/23/06
This is pure genius! The merchant's cat-and-mouse monopoly game with the weak (and with the Almighty) requires a Cat to expose the truth. I wish my deep thoughts were so clever! The word pictures became a movie in my mind. I can just see that cat! This is a "favorites" to be sure.
dub W05/24/06
T.S. Eliot would have loved this - great poetry.
Rita Garcia05/24/06
Clever, love the cat! Great Job!!
Beth Muehlhausen05/24/06
This just kept going and going and going! You're so PROLIFIC!!!!

Early on, I was prepared for some casual humor, but it developed into so much more than that!

This was the grabber for me: "With grand resolve, she mustered strength
And sprang forth in a flash;
She landed firmly in between
Assets and Petty Cash." From this point on, I was all ears. :-)

darlene hight05/25/06
Perfect! IMHO
Rachel Rudd 05/25/06
How do you keep doing it? :) Congratulations on a well-deserved win!
Joanne Malley05/25/06
Congrats! Such talent!
Trina Courtenay05/25/06
Keep kicking butt Kenn. Well deserved win!

Suzanne R05/25/06
How do you do it? Brilliant in every way - the message, the setting, the poetry - wow! (And this comes from someone who is not a cat-lover!)
Pat Guy 05/25/06
How did I miss this one? Story poetry - a perfect genre! Talentedly awesome once again! Congratulations Kenn!
Garnet Miller 05/25/06
Loved it! This is a well-deserved first place. You have such a way with words that makes them seem to sing!
Helen Paynter05/25/06
Totally brilliant. Technically perfect, I think; brilliant language; but also some really deep concepts - you didn't stick with just one metaphor (eg two hands to pray), and labour that, but moved seamlessly from one to another, without ever mixing them, of course. Well deserved first place.