Hunter Gatherer

 
If it had come to me as a leopard,
I’d have dropped to one knee and held out my hand
to let it learn my scent and know I am a friend.
As it licked my palm, I’d count the spots on its head,
catch its growling purr, and whisper “Tiger” in its ear
to witness the ease of forgiveness. Once it fell
asleep, I’d wrap its thin legs around me, feel
its dirty fur, its blood-worn breath against my bare skin.

But it did not come as a leopard
or a Panzer tank
or a gut-shot doe
or an atomic bomb
or the Lamb of God.

It came to me as a radish, small and blushed as a memory
cleaved open to show the bitter, white flesh inside.
So I lifted it to my nose and inhaled until
my ribs threatened to snap. For a moment,
I could almost smell lemon and roasted garlic,
cracked pepper and thyme. None of that was real.
There was only the must of freshly broken soil,
of vegetal skin torn open, watery juice running down my wrist.

 

 

*A slightly different version of this poem originally appeared in Blue Earth Review, vol. 12, Spring 2014, pp. 43.

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