What Matters More?

Portrait of a Young Woman Holding a Cat by Francesco Bacchiacca

What matters more,
the word or the image?

What matters more,
my life or this breath?

Perhaps the heart beats
in the mind
as well as the chest.

Perhaps this cat
resting beside my heart
feels soft to the touch

because the skin remembers
how to speak to the mind

and the mind remembers
how to feel.

~ Mary Ann Barton

Image credit: Portrait of a Young Woman Holding a Cat by Francesco Bacchiacca, oil, 1525. Francesco Bacchiacca [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Editor’s note: For an amusing modern comment on the painting, see Portrait de Jeune Femme Tenant un Chat at Pictures of Cats.org: a community of people who care about cats.

5 thoughts on “What Matters More?

    1. Thanks, Rachelle. I read one of your posts, “Aesthetic Experiences at the End of Life” , in which you talk about the importance of “experiencing beauty amid the ugliness of life.” I think beauty can be very healing, too, which is one reason that I like using images like this exquisite Renaissance painting in my blog. Plus I imagine people reading the blog and talking about what they see in the paintings.


    1. Thank you, Wendy! I started writing this poem while sitting on the sofa with my cat, and then I searched Wikimedia Commons for “paintings of cats,” which is how I found the painting by Francesco Bacchiacca. That’s when I heard the lines in my head: “Perhaps this cat/ resting beside my heart/ feels soft to the touch.”


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