Jungle Cat

after Sylvia Plath

They named me Lion (Mane),
an animal of the genus Panthera,
and the 10-year-old me
whined, blinked, and laughed.
Did I ever like cats?

Such solitary creatures,
burdened with pensive thought,
their beauty a curse,
a lure as dangerous
as the siren’s call.
Filthy manipulators.

Then, “jungle cat,” I read.
No species,
just natural habitat.
The reverb rang hot
in my body.
A yawn elongated my limbs.
I slept soundly that night,
comforted by the shred of identity,
yet puzzled by its voracious calling.

And finally, one year,
the Shaman Dome,
the Spirit Animal Workshop:
a dark grey puma eyes me studiously.
She examines my DNA,
considers my flesh
between her teeth,
then turns to disappear
in the folds of the island’s jungle.
I follow,
expecting her to lead me
to another animal, one that was
selfless,
social,
serene.

Instead, cubs piled high,
in the middle of an open clearing,
where the trees bow away.
I can’t count how many,
but there is more than one.
Speechless, I begin to worry.
A puma? A large feline?
A primal cat? Offspring?

The nouns fall apart
in my mouth
like cheap chewing gum.

I am left with her,
hiking up a mountain,
the warm air
now cooling around us.

As the sun glinted
off the thick strands
of her dark coat,
she looked off
into the distance,
pondering what Spirit Animals ponder,
and I could hear it:
a feeling
of Home.

After the Exodus

Silence has fallen across my lips.
The throat chakra is clogged with bloody membranes,
unheard sobs, meticulous giggles, and years of truth.
It hurts to not know what to say.
I am unable to metabolize,
deer-eyed and frozen;
I am in constant need of shock therapy.

There’s a heaviness weighing down my eye sockets.
A mini flood swells and subsides:
the concurrent ocean of mystery.
I can’t pinpoint the crux,
I forgot how to navigate West,
so I am adrift,
sober and awake,
feared and bemused,
knowing too much,
remembering too little.

I guess there was no use running away.
The swirl of dust devils haunts your dreams,
piling on top of one another,
until you are suddenly pressured to be
someone completely different.

I pray for my voice to return.
For the sweet ego to give logic
to the madness,
for the jargon to envelope me
like a blanket of nirvana,
for the ridiculousness of analytical
understanding of something
that so clearly cannot be understood.

For then, only then,
can I finally forgive us all.

The Temple’s Promise

I can’t make anything
hurt less.
I can’t make your tear-stained
cheeks unwrinkle.
I can’t make you forget.

There is so much
you need to burn,
there is so much
you can let go,
there is so much you will give to me.

We’ll let
the fire take it,
we’ll laugh
with the whips of air,
we’ll gleefully ride the eco-sphere.

I can warm
your fingertips,
I can breathe
in your ears,
I can help you see.

And then I won’t be there tomorrow.

A Dance

The cajoling is divine.
And I walk on hands and knees:
eating grass,
sighing deeply,
back exposed.

Waiting for a weight,
a boulder of granite,
an anvil of muscle,
a mass of heavy moss
musky with Earthly roots.

The soul,
the flash of the nonhuman,
slinks into a revelry,
basking,
geisha-like,
in the sun that glints
off your teeth.

A cavernous aroma
sweeping silently
across my stuttered sleep.

When dirt and grime is all you know–
you burn it down,
and play in the ashes.

The transfer of heat and power:

a dance,
a shared drowning,
a memory.

Default Dreaming II

The story of the mad woman,
a classic,
flickers like a film reel
in my head.
Concocted personalities,
hallucinations,
voices,
they all seem
to be happening
to someone else.

I leave rooms,
ghosted by the air,
and find myself on roofs,
under cars,
and half-naked
in the middle
of parks.
A presence, with its hand
on my shoulder,
gestures like a parent.
I’ve been bad…

But the character is simply
from a book,
fiction and made
out of ink
and bound paper.
She’s written.
And having been written means:
no formal goodbyes.

Default Dreaming

I have begun to worship
empty notebooks,
but have cursed the pens.
I can’t stand all their bleeding.
They are always
and endlessly–
and if it weren’t
for their nature,
their inherent Shakespearean role
they play,
I’d throw them out
altogether.
But, no.
Instead, they have been burnt with herbs,
buried in the snow,
and locked away
like a long-haired princess.
Her inky locks
folding,
layering
over her shoulders:
untouched.
Lackluster, her pupils deaden
over time.
Her bones worry.

The key is somewhere, I know.

Otherwise,
are we but to wait, patiently,
on the galloping muse
and his white horse,

like a small victim?

The Kiss

Being dual-natured
and unkempt,
I felt the magnets
of space
and the gravity
of your face
coupled with high-school snickers
and LSD.

Being as much man
as I am woman,
I gnashed your letters
with buckled teeth
and carved your name
in the temporary trees
brimming in white light
and debauchery.

Being trampled
and defeated,
I opted to follow
instead of lead
and my river of truth
spilled into your sea,
where you gulped me down
and left me.

So, I strangled the moment.

Ripping the breath from her mouth,
we stood there in the dark,
with bicycles and souls,
salty-wet and desert-sanded:
one formless form
of a resounding glow,

an echo
of skin
over skin.

To my playa self

Good night
sweet thing,
another year
always brings:

a light
a song
a dance
a scream–

A giant hug
a warm kiss.

A sweat
a mirror
a fever
of bliss–

A thrust
a shiver
a demand
for promises.

A shaking, a spreading,
an emblem of survival,
a quaking
a scraping
a tremor of denial.

And when you rest,
sweet thing,
when the cape is hung,
the whips are folded,
the dust masks
are debris-free:

dream I’m on fire.

White

I seek sun like a Pilgrim.
The cascaded beams
are my holy waters
and I am filthy.

The stench of heat,
the aroma–
my moans stick
sugary sweet
to the insides
of your cheeks.

I breathe through
your nostrils and ache
when you drift between
awake and asleep.

And when I see white,
I know I am home.
The blinding color
of my versatility:

I am everyone’s and no one’s.

I have one T-shirt
I keep rolled up
in a heap, stuffed
in my wooden drawer.

And when I smell fire
and sage, I remove it
from its cave
and dip my nose
in the throws
of blue-hued
memory.

You are sawdust.
You are a workshop.
You are oily rags
of motor fluid
and cheap laundry soap
weaved between layers
of cotton Hanes
undershirts.

I nightmare often:
that we are strangers
in the dust storm
and we pass each other,
walking aimlessly
in the White Out.

But upon awakening,
singed hairs round my face,
splinters wedged deep
between fingers,
I feel your mass:

the warm weight of your eyes.