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.

No Light – Default World Collection

There’s a sink whole
in my chest.
I smell pool water.
The LSD crops up,
its teeth deep
in my brain stem.

I lose you every day.
Your face
molds my vision.
What you left,
coins of the material world,
haunt me,
just like you.

Which step am I on?
Backwards,
the unproductive nature
of my grief
stumbling around,
feeling for life,
finding
the quietest
space in the world,
a hollowness,
a vacancy-

No light,
no light at all.

The space sucks it up,
the sound of blood
drowns out the birds,

and the gray
has become
my ancestor.

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.

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.

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.

Not a Lie

To say I stumbled across your picture would be a lie.
To say that I saw 2 pairs of eyes looking at me,
1 familiar, 1 unknown,
and I was not at all surprised
to find that once again
you were not alone
would be a lie.

To say that I was relieved by the debut
and that the joy in your smile
buried all doubts
that I was ever over you
would be a lie.

No.
To say I never searched my mind
for those few good moments we had
and wrapped myself in every micro-second
of your flesh and breath
and grip and grin
and laugh and wrath
and every molecule
of space that you
took up within me

would be
a lie.

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.

Bullets of Sound

I dreamt I got shot,
the pierced flesh
blood-whipped
and hot.

The imprint of your
lips, the comma
splice kiss
so new.

The swivel of hips,
the break of bone–
synco
    pated.

I bled clear fluid,
licked tears off
threads of
regret.

Cursed unctuous
air, the rain dangles
moisture
and sin.

Falling backwards I
lifted a solemn
chin to
smile.

To gush and spasm,
to suck and bellow,
I thank
bullets

of sound that repeat,
greet my memory
with ice
and lead.