The moon hangs full and heavy over the clearing, and a bonfire crackles in the still night, sending up swirls of orange sparks as each log falls into ash and ember. Its smoke carries the fragrance of white sage and cedar, of sandalwood, of myrrh. Its light dances over the pattern of stripes, the white ruff, and at last the burning eyes, a wash of gold over emerald as the tigress’ gaze catches and holds.
Greetings, traveler, and welcome. You have the look of a seeker about you — how well I know that restless heart!
There are others of your kind here, ancient and modern, their songs dreaming, wondering, praising. Here, in their words, you might find a moment’s peace, or perhaps there will only be more questions. On a night like this, who can say? Those might be spirits gathered out there, beyond the reach of the flames — but then again, it may only be a trick of the light. That might be a drumbeat; it might be a heartbeat; it might only be your own.
The fire is lit. The smoke is rising. In the end, all questions become one:
Will you come and join the dance?
Feather swept incense
A shadowed trance
Invite the animal inside
Totem dancing, dream drumming.
Here now, here now, here now be.
I was born inside a mountain with a feather on my tongue,
chanting anthems of ekphrastic static, empty as a drum.
The sun was my umbrella, all the stars: my lemonade:
The comets were my bossa nova bubble serenade.
As an infant, I was infinite.
I stretched across the cradle with an angel’s appetite,
Brighter than a quasar’s eyes, and strobing with delight.
I danced with lonely Ganymede, rode Cygnus to the moon,
played jacks with panthers, stoats and jackals, darts with a baboon.
As an infant, I was infinite.
As an infant, I was infinite.
In time, I grew beyond my measure, shed my astral vision,
Learned to view the day-to-day with clinical precision.
I built myself a cage of paper, silicon, and bone,
Crawled inside to hunker down, and reckoned it a home
Alone inside my brittle skin, as slick as any lie,
The rictus grin I glibly spin became my alibi.
Every thread of every life weaves death in its design–
But to die is to be born again: an endless pantomime,
And as an infant, I am infinite.
Your white-bone tips
Curl, from brown locks
And braided hair,
Gleaming with morning dew.
You come silent
Before the birdsong stirs.
I know many would cut
Those boughs free,
But you keep wild, ungroomed,
Tossing your head, to and fro,
Only from the golden torc
Clasped about your neck.
I wish to know what it is
To be unashamed,
Reborn from a sick half-beast,
That has no horns to shed in spring.
Every Fall I saw them off.
On Furred Knees
My eyes see not the colours of stained glass windows,
in reflections of broken bottles in the street.
My paws follow the shifting shades of seasons past,
in the leaves rustling around my feet.
My nose smells the ragged people picking through the refuse,
seeking the lives they’ve lost.
My eyes, but they could weep at all that I have claimed,
while ignoring greed’s cruel costs.
Gates of Heavens closed to me, against my fur and claws.
Bloody baptismal waters flow when thrice I wash my paws.
Shadow creatures feeding on sin and ever more demands.
I’m told this is religion, and I don’t need to understand.
My words are prayers; the fuzz of dandelions,
plucked, puffed upon, lost to the mourning breeze.
My tail makes prayers unheard from here, outside the dome,
though I kowtow, praying on my knees.
My words climb to the spire, there shattered, thrown down,
to rain upon my grey fur. . . cruel, and sharp, and broken.
My ears hide beneath the kippah, for the words
that can build bridges have yet to be spoken.
My teeth, my mane, my harem, my tail and my roar,
Chapel doors close to me, God’s child I am no more.
Life laid open. . . on my knees, thus The Book commands.
These are symbols of religion, I don’t need to understand.
My paws, a beggar’s bowl, held out for the answers
to questions lost in the surging crowd.
My paw touches the word of God, graffiti,
asking awful questions I dare not speak aloud.
My paws reaching from faith to faith,
finding faded shadows of endless broken dreams.
My paws hold memories I use to flay myself,
to hear Him heckling in my sobbing screams.
Genetic miracle of recreation within sacred vessels held,
Caretaker of animals failed, so man and animal meld.
“Mea culpa? Tua culpa! Four Horsemen your true children planned!”
There is no questioning Religion, I don’t need to understand.
‘Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear, that a wretch I be.
Made by Him, like unto Him, so doth a fearful wretch be He?
Faiths beneath this stained shroud, as countless as the sands.
Finally comes the knowing. Let there be light!
At last I understand. . .
No more “Please”. . . for Truth I’ve found,
Hidden away from where I wept upon my knees. . .
No Divine to hear me. . . no Holy Host to hear me. . .
God chooses not to hear the changed ones. . .
Not even one of us, praying on furred knees.
The sickened earth, there I was born
To live the many lies forever;
To seek through sinful skies for home
So I could make my nest with thorns
Of painted gold that none would sever.
There came a day when I had roamed
Unto some bush of thorns all gold.
I flew into that bush; my beak
Was set to seize this glittered growth,
But I was snared within its’ hold.
My savior stopped along the street,
And pulled me free. I gave a tweet.
The Butterfly Effect
“Believe with all your abdomen,” they say,
“And flap along with every confidence
That you’re the reason night will follow day
Without a break: we stir the turbulence.
“Destruction dances where our tarsi flex;
Antennae twitching, we command the world!
Our duty? Both to comfort and perplex.
So fly your colors proud, your wings unfurled!”
I try. I do. I flit from bush to tree
Imagining the force that I exert
Has toppled walls and stilled the swelling sea,
That I dispense the pleasure and the hurt–
But really, all I want’s a little sip
Of nectar. You can keep dictatorship!
A man washes, he’s heard the call to pray
In night’s vestige, before approaching day,
But once he’s done, with mild alarm he notes
His loved cat sleeps on the sleeve of his coat.
He wills she not wake, deftly quick is he,
A snip and a flick, his sole robe is free.
That morning, close amidst folk who believe,
Muhammad leads prayers with a missing sleeve.
Centuries pass. In a dream-laden nap,
I see my lost cat by Muhammad’s lap.
Climbing up, she settles and cutely purrs,
Secure in whatever scant thoughts are hers.
The Dogs Assure Me
The dogs assure me:
There are volumes of meaning –
Life and death –
Past, present, future –
In the scent of a rotting fish left after the flood,
Or a trace of scat,
Or the coyote, long passed,
But not everyone reads poetry.
I’m not so lucky, all told:
The rich scent of meaning –
Heady, intoxicating –
Rises only from words
And the way you rest your hands on the table.
As you made fire,
so you made me.
From the skull of a bear you killed
not because she was attacking
or had attacked before
but because she might attack
From the skin of a sleeping lion
you tracked and speared and thanked
From these things, you made a god.
From nothing, you made the idea of god.
You named me as you name your children.
In me you pour your prayers
as you store meat in your clay pots.
I am your bear-lion-god.
I am dead things. Empty space. And power.
What do we make next?
Thanks once again to Renee Carter Hall (“Poetigress”), who is a writer and poet whose work has been published both inside and outside the furry fandom. She is the current president of the Furry Writers’ Guild and was Writer Guest of Honor at RainFurrest 2015.