Cat-a-static  by Celia Berrell

(Nikola Tesla 1856 – 1943)


Nikola loved his childhood cat

the sleek, majestic black-Macak.

A cat whose fur would click and spark

when days were chilly, dry and dark

as stroking black-Macak’s fur coat

could cause a tiny lightning bolt.


Nikola Tesla loved his cat

the sparkling, zappy black-Macak.

That static electricity

inspired young Tesla, cleverly

inventing things quite technical.

Especially electrical.


From neon lights and radios

to radar and remote controls.

Transistors, robots, X-ray zones

and AC power to our homes.

Tesla had a genius knack

that started through his cat Macak!

It happened that one day the cold was drier than ever before. People walking in the snow left a luminous trail behind them, and a snowball thrown against an obstacle gave a flare of light like a loaf of sugar cut with a knife. In the dusk of the evening, as I stroked Macak’s back, I saw a miracle that made me speechless with amazement. Macak’s back was a sheet of light and my hand produced a shower of sparks loud enough to be heard all over the house.

My father was a very learned man; he had an answer for every question. But this phenomenon was new even to him. “Well,” he finally remarked, “this is nothing but electricity, the same thing you see through the trees in a storm.”
My mother seemed charmed. “Stop playing with this cat,” she said. “He might start a fire.” But I was thinking abstractedly. Is nature a gigantic cat? If so, who strokes its back? It can only be God, I concluded. Here I was, only three years old and already philosophizing.


I love the story about how his pet cat Macak sparked much of Nikola Tesla’s innovative work with electricity.  So I created this poem to honour Macak.


2 thoughts on “Cat-a-static

  1. Obviously this is by someone who doesn’t live in Australia – unless it’s one of the few mountain tops where it snows in winter. I’ve never seen snowballs or ‘loaves of sugar’ with or without electrostatic sparks. Freshly washed children’s hair, and metal library shelves on nylon carpet are the two i have experience with..

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