Wednesday, May 15, 2013

If You Had Asked

If you had asked, I would have told you--
I am sitting with the lions. 
I didn't go to them--
they came to me.
They always do.

The stench of their last meal rolls from their open, panting mouths,
like a ghost-scream from the one consumed--
the one that did not get away.

They are covered in flies.
The flies know what they want, but not how to get it.
They want death, but death is inside,
a backwards cub giving life to the lions.
The flies know this,
can hear this,
covet this,
see it in thousands with their minds' compound eyes,
but all they can do is buzz and annoy.
This is why we despise the flies.

Did I say "we"?
I am sitting with the lions, but I am by myself.
I can see for miles in every direction,
but I cannot see the curve of the earth.

If you had asked, I would have told you--
I am changing.
Always, I have loved the zebras.
I have been the admiring dust around their running,
and when they have made their distinctive coughing call,
I have always looked up
as if expecting a lover to say something kind.
Now, sitting with the lions,
I see the zebra's perfect hooves and think,
"I cannot eat those, or the hair; only the stripes:
live/
perish/
live/
perish.
This is not the woman I have always--or ever--been.
Rebel, rebel, you torn your dress...
but it is just the lions idly batting me to the ground
like an anthill made of girl.

This morning, when the lions first came,
I thought to tell you all these things.
I have been a river, pure and deep,
a few dozen dreams from the place you sleep;
I have been the moments when your mind was still
and your limbs were loose. 

If you had asked, I would have told you--
everything that a thousand years of crossings have taught my flowing blood.
I would have told you how my fingers have no other purpose but to touch your skin,
and how this yearning has refracted and filled my imagination
a thousand times.
If you had asked, I would have told you--
but you didn't;
and here among the lions, 
I think it best, now, that I remain silent.
________

inspired by "Lions Abide" by Talon. Find it HERE.

11 comments:

Brian Miller said...

They want death, but death is inside,
great line shay...and how you use life/death in the stripes of the zebra...and how your views are changing from hearing the zebra as a lover....the last stanza, love how you make it all warm and personal, the yearning...love the conversational tone of this as well...bittersweet is a great word for the choice to stay among the lions...

TALON said...

I loved this, Shay, and the about remaining silent...just perfect. That's what I love about inspiration...it comes from so many places. I'm grinning that this was inspired, in some small way, with my dandy lions :)

Roselie May said...

I love how you captured my imagination and send it to wild Africa...

sloan said...

This is amazing. I love these sections best, but it's all gripping, gorgeous imagery with such impressive depth:

"I am sitting with the lions, but I am by myself.
I can see for miles in every direction,
but I cannot see the curve of the earth."

"but it is just the lions idly batting me to the ground
like an anthill made of girl"

"I have been a river, pure and deep,
a few dozen dreams from the place you sleep"

And that ending. Wow! I love the last stanza. This is definitely on my favorites list.

The central theme here is that sometimes you're too close to something to see what it really is, what's really going on. Too close to the earth, too close to the zebras, too close to a person. It covers yours eyes with dust, this closeness. Before long, you can't even see your own reflection.

hedgewitch said...

The starkness of death and the richness of life contrast sharply here even as the line between them seems to blur and blend--is it about the simplicity which is the brusk difference between the white and black of the zebra, or the complex congruity of the lions and flies messaging how things fit, even the dark things, into the weave of the Big System whereby we are all consumed, eventually. The thing that strikes me most is the feeling of isolation and loss, that 'the anthill made of girl' turns from warmth to dust....beautiful, shadowy, amazing piece, Shay.

Kerry O'Connor said...

There are two places in this poem where I stopped short my reading for a wow moment. Firstly in the opening lines:
I am sitting with the lions.
I didn't go to them--
they came to me...
This is such a great set-up for what is to come.

And this description of the zebras' call:
when they have made their distinctive coughing call,
I have always looked up
as if expecting a lover to say something kind...
Which sets up the transition from admirer to predator brilliantly.

Then the entire second last stanza is amazingly self-contained, so poignant and poetic in thought and expression.

Much enjoyed!

TexWisGirl said...

an anthill made of girl. just brilliant.

Poet Laundry said...

"and here among the lions,
I think it best, now, that I remain silent."

...cat(s) got your tongue in a beautiful way Shay. I really enjoyed this.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

I, too, love the "anthill made of girl". This poem is breathtaking - one of your best, and since all of your poems are superlative, that is really saying something! I adored every line.

myheartslovesongs.com said...

that final line is such a sublime ending for your (as ALWAYS) stunning poem, Sis! this one floated from my eyes through my mind on a melody that's been carried by the wind for the thousand years of her existence. just gorgeous imagery!!

Mama Zen said...

You labeled this "hearing a pin drop." Yes, exactly.