predator vs. prey

your body is an animal at heart,
and the animal kingdom is rife
with murder most foul,
from the microscopic to gargantuan,
countless critters battle for supremacy every day.
there’s a reason we have so many metaphors for human behavior
about predators and prey.
and because history is written by the winners,
we mostly celebrate the clever brave strong hunters
searching out elusive, wily or featherheaded game.

in the animal world of the body,
you’d better pay attention to these roles.
being held down by someone
who gets off on your struggling
teaches your animal self
that you are prey.
holding someone down,
deliberately hurting them, and
taking what you want by force
turns you into a predator.

for prey, fear is the only thing
that has a chance in hell of keeping them alive.
it’s clear as day, how a rabbit freezes instantly
as a hawk’s shadow skims over –
its tiny eye a brimming cup
from which tears fear to fall,
thin, furry haunches trembling
terrified to betray a sign of life –
its only hope is not to catch
the triumphant, hot yellow gaze
of the stooping hawk
stretching out gleaming talons
cruel curved beak gaping in a grim
mockery of a grin
as it dives, screaming with joy
in anticipation of the kill.

likewise, anyone who’s been preyed upon
by someone who claims to love you
or is tethered to you
by bonds of blood or obligation –
birth certificates, marriage licenses –
knows how to cry silently.
because predators have no mercy –
if the hunter sighting on a target
ever truly gazed into the luminous
and limpid pools of light
that live in the eyes of a deer,
the shot could not fail to miss the heart –
and being caught is so much worse
when you survive each attack.
if you live to cry another day,
you may try to find someone
weaker than you,
someone you could take
if it came down to a fight.
but humans have so many weapons:
strong muscles, crushing weight,
sharp nails and sharper words,
withering, wounding,
planting the seeds of hatred
and self-doubt that grow to loom-
ing forests of dark thoughts in the rich loam
of your unexamined soul.

because if you have ever felt like prey,
steeped your animal body long enough
in that elemental terror,
the only thing that stills the fear
is to become a predator yourself,
in a vain effort to kill
the tiny, trembling part of you
that once was helpless,
that had no choice
but to live in fear of being hurt
with no strategy but escape.
inside every predator is a prey animal denied –
sick of hiding, sick of hurting –
who wants to be on the blunt end
of the stick this time.

but.
there will always be
another animal in the jungle
who is stronger than you.
stalking and killing
whatever pitiful prey you can find
can’t protect you from
the predator above you
preying upon you
to obtain a moment’s respite
from the fear that haunts their dreams.

I’ve been preyed upon, and
hurt others because of it –
the desperate, feral lashing out
of a wounded animal caught in a trap
who bites the one who tries to free it –
but I propose a paradigm shift.
humanity can choose to rise above
the petty daily struggles,
the crushing drama that consumes us.
We don’t need to beat nor be beaten.
transcend your animal nature,
gentle your body to tranquility
and meet me in the soul planes
on the wide, free plains of the mind
which knows neither fear nor death.

catcalling is not a compliment

it is not intended to be.
it’s meant to humiliate and degrade women
for committing the sin of being female,
for having bodies with breasts,
for walking through your line of sight –
in short, for existing in public
as a member of the sex class.

“If they didn’t want the attention,
they shouldn’t dress so sexy.”
bullshit. every woman will tell you
she’s been catcalled in sweats,
in oversized hoodies,
with no makeup, with unwashed hair.
women have been raped
despite wearing fucking burkas.
clearly clothing and the degree of her conformity
to the Fuckability Mandate
(e.g., feminine presentation as “sexy”
for the purposes of pandering
to the pornified male gaze)
– or lack thereof – is irrelevant.

“Walking down the street
as a woman in sexy clothes
is like wearing a meat suit
into a lion’s den.”
so you’re saying men are animals
and too sex-crazed to control themselves?
it’s not feminists who hate men.
men hate each other and/or themselves,
far more than women ever can,
and live down to their own low expectations
of their ability to be human.

well guess what? I will continue to wear
whatever the hell I want,
with whatever degree of “sexiness”
makes me feel good about myself
on any given day.
I’m not going to apologize
for having breasts,
being female in public,
or for passing through your particular orbit.
if you think that’s problematic
why don’t you try taking some responsibility
for your own fucking boner,
instead of pretending it’s my fault,
and trying to put me down constantly
in a vain attempt to raise yourself up.

catcalling has never been a compliment,
and you, dude, don’t have to act like an animal.

left vs. right

I want you to my right, but I need you on my left.
There’s science behind it and it’s legit.
When you sit on my far right side, I cannot see you,
not really.  You are a flickering ghost
half-visible out of the corners of my eyes,
one of which doesn’t work (right) and never has.
It’s not so much a massive blind spot
as a colorless, invisible mist; things happen there,
but they’re not real, they don’t register,
I can’t respond properly, as if I’m half-dreaming.

My hearing has a similar deficit,
so I’ll never be able to understand what you said
that time you spoke only into my right ear,
your words falling meaningless as rain.
That ear’s an empty shell, a whorl
of ornate spirals leading nowhere, no loving heart
or understanding mind lies at the other end,
it holds nothing but oceanic whispers
and salt-wracked loneliness.
Whatever nothing lies behind it has
as much understanding of secrets –
and cares as little for the mysterious
motives of humans – as a hermit crab.
So if you really don’t want anyone
to hear or remember, tell it into my dead right ear.
Your secret’s permanently safe with me.
Maybe it’s buried in my subconscious
and will surface in my dreams,
a long lost wreck lifted into the light at last.

I’ll probably misinterpret it anyway, don’t worry.

When you sit on my left, you are present,
almost too present to bear – unexpected,
like the best and worst gifts –
I see your true colors and can’t help but apprehend you,
you are corporeal, solid to the touch.
This is frightening;
after all, my left side is so weak and damaged.
I broke my left arm twice and my left leg once, growing up,
within the same year and a half.
So I like to keep you on the right,
safely in the dream world,
until I get to know your pressure points,
in case we start to go too fast, and I have to put the brakes on.

The left dares to presume too much; it can’t behave.
It wants to grab your arm excitedly,
touch your hand inquisitively,
a dumb ape wondering what this other ape feels like,
a mindless body hoping your body might like mine and vice versa –
the braille’d texture of my skin, the round coldness of my arm,
meeting the electric/al resistance of your muscles –
a collection of pheromones wondering if we are compatible,
bacteria trying to decide if we like the taste of this new colony.
My daring left side would stare right into your eyes
as if to find the answer for everyone who’s ever hurt me
with leers from eyes that color,
mocked me using a voice with that timbre,
laughing a laugh like that at my expense;
and everyone who will hurt me in the future
by reminding me much too much of you.

If you’re to my right I can contain you,
a neat and tidy little ghost in your dream world,
keep you safe in a box full of other half-seen expressions,
with all the eye contact I never quite made –
the times I looked at your ear instead of your eyes
to stop myself from drowning in them –
all the things I cannot bear to watch
for fear they’ll disappoint me,
all the secrets I may never be ready to hear.
They are packed too thick with sorrows, and
my heart can’t make room for any more.

platonic

for SK

You take the words right
out of my brain, and into your mouth—
I can hear you tasting them like the caramel
coins of some unfamiliar candy currency.

Myself, reversed. What was light in me
is heavy in you, obscured. The North pole
and the South, flipped unexpectedly,
must feel much as we do.

And Socrates would be proud of us,
as we work the seam that marks where we
were torn apart at incarnation,
we are Platonic in the Truth of it.

washer

Catching sight of my
self in the bathroom mirror
I know the muted horror
of stumbling on portents —
as damning as the washer
at the stream, she who beats
out the blood of the witness,
that will soon shed itself
according to omen —

I meet my own basilisk-
dark gaze calmly, as my
hands continue to scuff
at the blood that bears witness
to my recurring death-wound.

seeds

The fear of ice split my head like a melon
a creeping thought of you
gnawed in the crack
but silvery whispers, seeds twitching dark
and in the interim, warned
or warmed me on.
I’m stopped up with you instantly,
constantly; my sidelong escapes
revert to their furrow
and in the back garden
the crown of your row
your sunflower soul
blackens sweetly, slowly.
So like a good little mole,
I subvert a cold hand
to dig up your old gnawed one.

king of ravens

Your puffed grey idolatries are quick
to pick up these new diversions.
Their motley flashes a warning,
warming this cold court. They are dark
as a tarot pack, closed to your
over-quick eyes even
when they fan out like peacocks.

Their colors toll in my blood,
my sleep. Their hunched shapes complement
my thickened brain. I read
strange words in their bent
forms and blooded colors.
When they drop
like so many soured leaves
having played out a dead court
in this, my stunned one,
one of your many lackeys
scrapes them up again.

I am crossed, reversed
by the influence of birds –
the Ace of Owls, round eye sharp and
yellow as a talon,
bends his bishop’s face upon me again.

I would order them all banished,
flights of doves emigrating vexed
from the realm of your amusement,
but I am augured against it
by the Queens of old ambassadors,
their Spanish coats glinting
startled in candlelight.

Dimly can I hear
a bloodier answer – deal
another round of Ravens.
My clothes are
budding black, my hands and hooks
yellowing. The cards knock in my grip,
pecking; I toll them out again.