Squinting through the grass,
my weak nose inhaling the mustiness
of the close packed dirt. The sinewy
legs press in closer. Canines bared quick.
Acacia leaves pouncing around me. Yellow
eyes tucked into the overgrown mane
traces the jerky movements I cannot control.
The sweat passes down from heart to crotch.
As I stand with a branch gripped
tight, he assumes a position. Claws
sunk deep into bark, muscles quivering,
anticipating that moment of sweet release.
Stretched out, he’s five times bigger flying
towards me out of the tree. No uncertainty
in his eyes as he drops from thirty feet up.
The mouth gapes wide, teeth bared, dead.
Slit-open my eyes. Younger brother laying atop
me, with this hair wild and laughter uproarious.
Eyelashes meshed, showing slats
through thatching grass, nostrils inflating
to accommodate the dirt drifting
in. Sinews stretch, rubber bands in thick legs, crouching, I fear the stance.
Canines bared not for show, biting leaves.
Green drifts around me,
tickling my face, landing in the crease
between shoulder and neck.
Yellowing eyes sunk into mane deeper
than claws sunk into bark.
Sweat drains from heart to crotch. Fingers
rough on the branch rapping
against the ground, lip quiver. He's five times longer spread out above me,
Ribs tight against the inside skin, backing on fur. Sweat pools in the dirt below
my feet. Weight on, only fifty pounds grinning down, with square teeth
fitting in his mouth straight, his humid curled hair, pupils erasing the color,
Shaking fingers off-center my weight and I fall towards the dirt housing centipedes and fire ants nibbling at the webbing between my toes.
The young cub flashes yellow eyes at me a warning, with his claws dug deep into the flaking bark,
his stance lowers on joints squeezed tight,
his sinews stretch, rubber bands to be released. Mane barely grown straight three inches,
the hairstyle of Africa. Sweat drips
through my pants into my shoes, leaking
into the ground to grow weeds. Fur creases
at the lip and his canines, stalactites grown thicker than the tree of the trunk he's crouching in.
Spit seeps from his mouth to hit the ground
and he bounds from the tree with his length growing above me, stretching, erasing the sky.
I count his ribs and the seconds drop around me, but he's just a boy.
Claws shape in nails digging deep into the bark
of the dog confused by the flying child. Ribs
reach to the sky and skin hugs around them.
Favorite toys are brought. Little Bunny with
one eye and a tail hanging by the thread. Amber
eyes dried of the dirt floating in, teasing
tear glands, until yellow fills the white.
Tongue soft on the roof of the mouth,
clicking gently makes the spit stick to the lips
coated in ant carcass and centipede legs.
Breath scoots under the tongue, into the air
leaving before the body coughs the liquid
from the lungs.
Rubbing claws, ribbing ants.
Licking and splitting
the insects in the mouth
until their is life
no more. Dropping
into the weeds, pricking
skin, no more
than a scratch.
through the audience
of the boy turned lion
turned boy again
when he fell from the tree
on the lip of his back,
ribs poking from the skin
leaving the oxygen inside,
trapped behind teeth
Toe nails used as claws, fall out of the tree. Ribs poking out of the tube of the body of the boy
playing lion. Pupils erase the color of the sky,
using dog-sight that won't sap his strength.
Failing leaves of breath catch on his teeth
and they try and scamper out. The branch
guilty of murder punished by a stomp. Lips
caked by centipede flakes of dirt pull in sun
used to heal the sick by the voodoo queens
and covens of stealth. Ringlets raked to mane
stay tangled in the tree, hanging from snaps
of bark too stubborn to fall. Sweat drips
in the young boy's wounds to clean them out
with saline and alcohol drank the night before.
Lion-Boy was the poem I wrote for the animal assignment we were to do in the middle of the semester. I noticed in the original, I have a lot of adjectives that are the describing words and the poem's images are based mostly on those blocky phrases I have in there such as, "weak nose," "sinewy legs," and "jerky movements." I notice with a lot of my first drafts, I want to give this image, but I weigh it down with so many description words that don't even give it the correct, or the strongest image.
As I wrote revision 1, I was aware of the use of adjectives and the images weighed down by them. In a couple of the lines, I used them with "thatching grass" and "thick legs." When I read through after I wrote, I really liked thatching grass maybe because of the a's, but also because thatching sounds like a word used to show the space in between thin objects. Revision 1, I focused more of my senses, not on images, but on touch. I wanted that full body experience with the quickness of the language, and with the feelings of the leaves tickling the neck and sweat on the body. I didn't realize what I had been doing with the form until after it was done, but I noticed my image was of grass and it possibly took shape because of that. Revision 1 follows the content pretty well from the original, but Revision 2 started moving away from the content that I had began in the original poem, or maybe just the feeling of the content. The tone of the piece. I added in ants and centipedes and left out the grass, I also thought adding more of the teeth compared to the tree would make the lion real in a way that even though he was a cub, you see things differently when you're frightened and then it happens and everything comes back into focus. Revision 2, I used a more easily understood narrative then the original and then Revision 1 because they both had short, choppy sentences creating those flashes of image, but I thought stringing it together a little more may help create the image and make it more fluid, like in real life.
Revision 3 is where everything changed and my content flipped on me and had me seeing the after effects of the boy falling. I have this gnawing feeling that after a certain number of drafts I become bored with the poem and I want to move it forward. Revision 3 is the backing of that thought. I have no idea where the thought to hurt the little boy came from and I've noticed with this website, I've gotten violent towards the end drafts and that makes me nervous. Revision 3, I used minimal lion imagery and focused more on the wounds and deterioration of the little boy, but I wanted to keep some of the human responses that the narrator in the first poem had towards the little boy, lion.
Revision 4, I gave some of the same content a quicker, shorter form, giving the poem that feeling of time slipping away, like the little boy's life. I used a lot of -ing verbs that seemed to hold the reader away from the action a little more than if I had used -ed verbs, or in the present.
Revision 5 of the poem was a conglomeration of revision two, three and four since those three revisions were what took me to the end. I gave it a little more body, instead of leaving it bare because I felt like the images could support themselves in a longer line, and I thought that the reader would appreciate more time given to the boy.