BRYHER

 

Jaguar

Here once beneath these vines a jaguar spilled
like water from the leaves upon a child.
With prehistoric expertise it killed
the boy and carried him into the wild.

The village elders said the cat had come
to take away a life to pay for all
the goods the jungle had supplied; that some
elision in the child's prayers had called

the beast from deep inside the forest's heart
to lie in wait within the shadowed tree.
This virus is the jaguar's counterpart.
It lurks within my veins and waits for me

to weary of the chase toward each new breath.
Old friends withdraw unseen while others pause,
discussing cures . . . and every day my death
is coming closer to those waiting jaws.

Death isn't metaphoric. When it's pressed
for deeper purpose, you can make it mean
whatever, in the end, will serve you best.
I only know, while dying, it's obscene

to hear the pious elders, who believe
my pain is payback from a vengeful God
for hidden sins no one but they perceive:
Five thousand years and still the same facade.