there is no anniversary
if i guess
if i extrapolate
if i reckon
give or take
not a bad number,
though far less than Anne’s
our end less bloody
if no less
surely our nights
those duets of
fingers and leather
liquid shudder-filled nights of
moans and cries
I am not in love with him.
And may I ask what brought you to this momentous realization?
I don’t know.
You don’t know?
I don’t know.
Well, I know.
Yes, Cassandra, I’m sure you do.
(a longer beat)
You’re not going to ask me, are you?
No, Cassandra, I’m not.
You know why not.
Still — I do know, you know.
Yes, I know.
I know. I’ve always known. And I will know. Always.
Yes, Cassandra. Yes. I know.
Beneath the light of a filtered moon, Lion is led back to his cage. His silver head is lowered and ragged ropes pass from his tired body to two electric-staffed handlers, front and back.
“Can’t imagine what you were thinkin’, ol’ fella,” says the lead, tugging harder than necessary on the rope around Lion’s neck. “After all these years, to make a break for it now… What were you thinkin’?”
Lion says nothing, shows no resistance, as the handler steps onto the stone table that holds the cage.
“C’mon, ol’ boy,” he pulls, as the rear handler goads Lion’s haunch with his prod.
Lion steps up and, stunned by the shock of the prod, falls head first into the cage.
The rear handler laughs. The front shakes his head, stepping out to triple bolt and lock the steel-barred door.
Lion looks up.
Just in front of him, on the other side of the bars, sits his owner in her red velvet stand. A hard and beautiful woman, fingers laced in front of a tired mouth, she fights back tears. Blue eyes awash, she stares silently at Lion who, unable to meet her gaze, looks away into the night.
“Whadda want us to do with this, Missus?” ask the rear handler as he digs into the dirty knapsack on his shoulder.
“With what?” answers the owner. Her voice, small and light and shrill matches neither her body nor her eyes. Those piercing blue balls that never leave Lion.
“With this,” responds the handler, lifting into the moonlight a limp body of white fur, black streaks of dried blood at its breast. “We found it with him. It’s different than the others.”
The owner stands, unsteady on her boots at first, looking from Lion to the white lump in the man’s outstretched hand.
“Yes,” she says. “I can see that it is different. But is it dead?”
“Oh, yeah, Missus — was half dead when we found him. Guess that’s why he didn’t put up too much of a fight when we took it from him.”
“Naw — at least, not like all the other times. Maybe he’s just gettin’ old like the rest of us,” the man snickers.
The owner, smile-less, walks slowly to him. He offers her the body, but she shakes her head, reaching out instead to stroke the white fur. Her strokes are timid at first, then deeper, more forceful, her black-lacquered nails tearing through mats and blood until they stop at the body’s neck.
“What’s this?” she asks.
“This…” she repeats, yanking hard; breaking a silver collar from around the white throat.
The lead handler joins them to look, both men afraid they have missed something important.
“We never saw none a that, Missus,” responds the lead, hoping to avoid the owner’s ire. “We never saw none of it — no way — we’da remembered that. We don’t know what it is.”
The owner turns toward Lion, holding the collar aloft. From the torn bottom dangles a large, creamy pearl, captured in the delicate filigree of a silver cage. The collar, pearl, and cage glisten in the soft blue light of the moon.
“He seems to know what it is,” says the owner, staring at Lion.
The roar stops. Locked in her eyes, Lion retreats to a corner of the cage.
“Burn it,” she commands, spinning around to the handlers, motioning to the white fur. “Take it far away and burn it until there is nothing left.”
“And the bauble, Missus?” asks the lead, knowing the pearl will bring good money in town.
After a moment’s silence, the owner turns back toward Lion.
“Let him have it,” she declares, throwing the collar through the bars. It lands with a soft tinkle at Lion’s paws. “Let him keep it. As a reminder.”
“Yes, Missus,” answers the handler with a disappointed shrug.
“Now get him ready for the next show,” she orders and turns, storming off into the night.
Lion does not move.
i dressed for you today
all in black
in the high
around my neck
the only white
the string of pearls
your fingers on
your teeth at
below it all
beneath it all
a deep red
from pulse to palm
throbbing ice through
thick black bindings
between our two
when summer’s sunrise falls into ashes
when purpling clouds do threaten the spring
when Susan’s grave head succumbs to lashes
then dream and fancy have far less to bring
when mountains eclipse the right of passage
when torrents rip and rend the sky of light
when bound’ries and fences cannot be assuaged
then comes the betes noire we have feared each night
he bestrides the bloodied horse of Chaos
Anathema, Sin, Bane, and Curse his names
and all our weapons he commutes to dross
our future and present and past to flames
for what is left when Hope is taken down
and Love becomes but fodder for the clowns
©s rogers 19 July 2009