One Paw in the Galaxies

Archetypes versus the "real" thing. Written 2.24.06.

I've got one paw in the galaxies, the other touching the earth; dark soil shaken off from my pelt, stars in my eyes, understandably (unmistakably) alive. Leopard in someone else's skin, human with leopard braided into my bones and the song of my walking. The sky is my hunting-ground. I bunch my legs and spring to meet this prey: the fakeries: the toxic violet breath of dragon and panther and wolf and butterfly. Bound too many together the smell is indistinguishable from carrion, though alone it's like the scent of one of those thorny flowers, roses in bloom. Yellow pollen on the tips of my claws acts as a poison-arrow.

Rearing back, every trace of animal in my head and heart loosened, warmed by the cold and chilled by the fire; paradox of cat and human rages in my head. Both speak like the first gush of river water in my ears, pounding, iridescent, opening my body to its very seams until claws and tail are the equals to nails and hips.

Sunlight slanting in the afternoon through the trees, that's fine by me, take that for your animalness.

But me I'd rather be in the rain, the cold on my skin and fur, sleeking it back like black spots on a long sheet of gold leaf. I'd rather be in the grey wind with the name of every god on my lips, and demolishing the mythology, and reveling in it. Slamming down the archetypes and embodying them with every step I take.

That's animal. The realness of it you feel in your bones and your fingers and the curls and curves of your body; you are the living mythology, the urban and the bucolic, the big bad wolf and the hunter god. Worlds and dreams and the ancestries of tribes are trusted in one species; the best hunter, the swiftest runner.

And somehow, no-one quite sure of how it happens, but when it does, it's this: you're the archetype and you're not it, you're the main character in every animal-tale, the Crow and Coyote and Leopard and Bear; and then again you are an ordinary animal, no stories spun about you, a hungry lean thing sniffing at a meal and hating your job and singing in the damn shower.

In animal people I see the basis for the great stories of old, how Raven created the world, how the Turtle carried the earth on his back. These are people with lives and friends and money but they live, as I said—

One paw in the galaxies, one paw on the earth.

The characters of animal mythology, the actual animal (froufrou removed) with all the unpleasantness packaged along, the archetypes and the "real thing" in the flesh, words and drumbeats, galaxies and earth. Beyond the world and at the same time so real, so present in it.

This is an animal.

What's not an animal? Not the sound of a drum or the feel of blood on your forehead as a blessing, not a hunt or an argument over words, not the domination and politics that's uniquely human. What is it, then?

I can't say it in words, can only hedge around the truth, but if you want the McDonalds version here it is, put simply:

I'm Leopard like in stories and folktales. I am the main character in How the Leopard Got His Spots. I am the leopard-gods, the leopard-tales told around a cookfire.

And then again I'm leopard with lowercase l, the animal that eats from garbage cans, swallows carrion, backs away from hyenas and lions with a fear that would be called cowardly in humans. The two roles mix.

Then again: yes, I'm human.

Human and folktale and animal and storyteller and story-subject, I'm a mix, I'm a mutt, can't separate the parts from the whole.

But I can write about it.

I just have.

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