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 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.

Ameloriated Bursts

I was looking for the dark lessons.
The outline of a storm cradled my face
every time I looked upon the past.
And it was time to banish
the flash of every wintry season–
freely create heat,

friction
to warm my veins.

Emerging from the wet cave,
youth in my eyes,
memory-thickened hair,
a love spell on my lips,
I engineered a figure,
each shape co-mingling,
dancing, morphing,

and you:
the door left open.

Pan-handling to my demons,
it was as if I bled
a buffet
of poisoned tonics–
and into the dust,
out came the rest,
ameloriated bursts,

us two,
free to collide.

Echoes of Scents

Echoes of scents linger,
the Patchouli-sickened gaze
back into my memory tomb
is a vertical slit upwards,
blood that pours evenly,
stains in patches,
grips fabric in concentric circles:
Venn diagrams
of all the reasons I left.

I’ve decompressed from you.
Gone to the desert and back,
gulped men and women like fire.
My inked flesh scarred over,
leashes unbuckled with teeth,
chains undone with feet,
I had bare skin illuminate
like moon veil and sheen,
and all wind-chapped regrets
leaked into the Earth
like whiskey spit.

And then things were lit
with matches:
a photo,
every haunting crescendo
whining from speakers,
and that downright
terrifying smell,
where I shelved you
and let you collect dust,
where water drips crisp
each page,
enveloped between layers
of black romances.

And there you ghost my evenings,
light the river of oil,
until I am an ocean of burning.

The Center

The smallest of wispy threads
spewing force,
sucking the lava hot current
of life, together
concoct the universe.

Not the dog,
nor the horse,
not even the mouse
is denied.
It’s an all or nothing
raw deal
of inclusivity.

One is likely to go broke.
Being that well connected,
resurrected, suggested
friends appearing
and reappearing.

Be lost. Get lost.
Find where
you’re lost.        And there.
Feel the primordial
compass tick,
a bass thumping–
no, not your heart,
the needle point edge
of passing over.

Masquerade

We wear many faces.
Removing and adorning
colors and shapes
with our skin flats,
weeping neon,
grinning child-like,
forcing every liquid
ounce down,
tasting anonymity.

Our naked masquerade:
shortcomings dissolved
to climaxes
to plateaus
to dark denouements.

With chest cavities spread,
drowned demons
met decadent
dooms,
timber for our resurrections.

I see you now more than ever.
Every layer as exposed as the last.