Memories of Palm

Emily Dickinson on cats in cages. Written 10.15.05.

Civilization—spurns—the Leopard!
Was the Leopard—bold?
Deserts—never rebuked her Satin—
Ethiop—her Gold—

There are these nights when I read stories and I dream of myths. The old people of legend and half-remembrance, barely incarnate in me, too. Leopard, satin-pawed dark-footed gold-tongued wild thing, on my throat like a bite or a prayer, and leopard who opens my mouth and pulls my skin off and makes me bleed. Lone and alone, unglamorous cat in trashcans and African alleys, proud even with carrion in his teeth. A cat keeps the head up and the pelt clean and the eyes as a sharp as a sharp knife.

Tawny—her Customs—
She was Conscious—
Spotted—her Dun Gown—
This was the Leopard's nature—Signor—
Need—a keeper—frown?

Leopard's limbs are massive, with a lean muzzle, fur prickling. Robust jaw and with human names more fit for jewels than animals: saxicolor, nanopardus, orientalis, kotiya. A dynamic sculpture with ears pricked and the teeth firm white against a bronze-colored coat. Despite that pride, leopard hunches away from too-violent prey, quiet on her long velveteen legs. Shy. Scared. A nature too real and too unromanticized to interest the scholarly: tiger, jaguar, there's savageness in those countenances that doesn't belong to a leopard.

Pity—the Pard—that left her Asia—
Memories—of Palm—
Cannot be stifled—with Narcotic—
Nor suppressed—with Balm—

I read leopard myths and I dream of leopard stories. I read. I write. I dream I speak I hunt I'm moving against a panorama of black sidewalks and green trees in rain—I'm coming across animals which could've broken my neck or which I would've killed without a pause. Not in Asia anymore, that's for certain, because in a human form beasts blend freely together. A deer and a wolf could be friends, one bite marked as cannibalism.

Listen, don't pity me for "being in the wrong body". Pity the cats dressed in their own pelts, their own green or yellow eyes, their own tails. Leave me 'cos I've enough to do in this ape's skin as it is.

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