Noises in the night: the crackle and rustle of leaves,
something creeping through darkness: a cat
disturbing light sleepers with its ontological claim.
I’m sure it’s a cat, but how do I know?
I stare at the window-an opaque pane,
no illumination forthcoming,
daybreak hours off.

Now insomnia discerns other sounds,
a cacophony near and far: creaks-
barks-chirps-gurgles-coos-
something scratching plaster
inside the bedroom wall. And the mind
with inexplicable certainty conjures up
gate hinge, dog, early birds, drainpipe, rat.
No chance for sleep now.
Might as well get up, make coffee,
revisit the nettlesome text,
subject of some future test.

Immanuel Kant, tell again in your cryptic voice
what it is I need to know about the windowpane,
the blank page, the fractal steam giving off this coffee cup.
How is it we know something rather than nothing?
What transforms white noise into meaning?
Your nuanced answer: something
beyond the senses-what you call
the transcendental unity of apperception-
brings the cat to life and sends it
prowling through the dark garden,
reality just a conjurer’s trick,
our minds shifting the qualia hidden
beneath the magic cups.
That much I get; but still
something about the riddle
of the looming portal
has me baffled. Tell me,
which cat is it, noumenal
or phenomenal, that now
paws at the screen door
and doubtfully mews?

[From Confrontation 122]