Evenings on the Street of Ermine
men with silver find a brothel
where the comely whores, on pedestals,
are dressed in leaves or feathers:
one’s made up to be a peacock;
one, an ibis; one, flamingo;
one, with blossoms on her wrists,
is June magnolia; one is ginkgo.
For no small cost a tailor
in Akkah takes custom orders,
then, from fowl or flora, sews
the girls their ornate wardrobes.
I hired his skill for bedclothes
made to terrify from lionhide:
a tawny flank, a copper loin,
the paw-pads blue as cyanide.
With that russet mane combed back
like a collar and the shock of hair
at tail-tip styled into a teardrop,
I preyed on ostrich in their boudoir
caves and slept in the boughs
of a flowering almond. My claws,
at love, were lethal, and the way
they’d flay a gown, then pause
above a jugular, left me breathless
in the lion’s head, and hungry,
panting on the brink of slaughter.
Nights, I mastered a leonine carriage,
taught my lungs passable roars.
By day, polite in genteel villas,
I jawed with chatelaines in jaguar
boots and mufflers of chinchilla.
How I went savage was civilized
and slow. Safaris ran counter
to my neighbors’ dreams of towers
in a city of iron, but I could sleep-talk
metal for hours, thinking fur and fronds
and feathers all the while. My fattened
lusts, like muscles, hurt from flexing,
and they liked to hurt, to madden.
When a moon that reeked of jasmine
sent me growling after owlet twins
with snowy breasts and flecks
of silver peppered on their skin,
I kissed and licked and bit them
where my bites could not be missed.
And at their screams, I set my canines
to their throats and in two twists
had quit them. I left by a frosted
window with blood in my mane,
passed a man in goat-hair lapping
sewage from a gutter, an oak limb
dressed in rope for someone’s hanging.
The eastern hills flushed pinot noir
and shop-fronts blued reflective
till I made every glass I passed an abattoir.