Life with a Lion before the Plague
“All the literati keep at least one imaginary friend.” – Joseph Brodsky
You brought music with you,
spun in circles with circus performers
before I knew it was cruel.
I found you again when my father
strode through yellowed bluestem
that tickled my cheeks as I parted waves
with locust spit darkening the delicate
gullies on my fingertips surrounded
by mutilated homes of writing spiders.
I felt like Alice. Confused,
straining to be taller, I saw
you in the Indian paintbrushes and milkweed
unbothered by mounded prickly pears.
Your patience moved between us,
pliable, thick, sweet like the blackberries
I secretly plucked from my father’s basket
when he thought he was filled up.
We stalked my father’s shadow
along the Red River, clenched
the rough hide of toads with urine
streaking down our forearms.
You grew too beastly
for the family reputation. Mud,
scabs, nested hair, slashed
shirts, shredded Wal-Mart shoe soles,
feral – I didn’t notice my father’s
steel-toed silence crush your lungs.
I wonder what became of your pelt
and loathe every taxidermist
who stuffs me with sawdust and foam.
– Catherine Dartez
This poem was first published by The Allegheny Review.