09/28/2021

Rose Hunter

The Leopard Book

 

i.

Seems much like we were straightaway
in your buck­et seats or how
you lean over, say, I have pro­pos­al for you

car­nivo­ra, feli­for­ma, felidae
pan­thera, rich, cologned, fur
speaks of divans ottomans
and chintz and you can smoke; a leopard

can smoke in such a way, smoking
being part of a leop­ard not something
col­laged on; first time I talked to you
all par­tic­u­late over a bumper

Baja do you think it’s a sign? crease brow
pin eyes in the sun leop­ard, as though

who could have an answer, me?
In any case not in neon, I said
recon­sid­er: how I had already pegged you

sure, you tell me there was a poet they think
was the love of that great painter

but it was not her. A leop­ard deals
in dol­lars watch­es and briefcase
flashy car and half explain­ing why
not the lat­est mod­el, and true
I opened the door too close to a post
and to respond, top of my umbrella

dropped off, dropped part, I think
you looked at me faint­ly but not

over­ly, per­plexed, leopard
now not the time to say
twen­ty peso umbrel­la perhaps
one I left in a lion car and the next
got lost with that oth­er man
so now there is this, real­i­ty of the situation

some­one tried to kid­nap you?
to talk about your fears; fear­ful leopard
for faji­tas I will wear a zebra
dress and try not to trip

smash into some­thing, knob­bly kneed zebra
under the lamp­light leop­ard colors
in rosettes not spots, with speck­led underbelly

and to cross the road after; you
with elbow out, paw on hip
that tri­an­gle invitation
to hook my arm through, seeing
as appari­tion, vapor, smoke

ii.

but if you say meet on Thursday ok
here’s how it goes; that’s
two days from Tuesday, count ‘em
Thursday, and I smell of Escape

and yet you are the one for signs. Even
my name it’s every­where in Mexico
but slo­gans send him hints

plac­ards edge him this way a billboard
tells him, it gets con­fus­ing sometimes
don’t want to fol­low the wrong one

first time a leop­ard laugh and true
a leop­ard is serious
as a tucked shirt, polo or long sleeved
ironed; teas­ing a leopard
like dri­ving into a haboob, a leopard
would rather talk about pain

how he car­ries it on his shoulders
cer­e­mo­ni­al, it glis­tens and breathes
in the fur; leop­ard pain

takes it up the tree for lat­er or keeps it
like that tro­phy in your car
I’d like to thank the academy

and if a leop­ard is like a lion in this much
lead­ing with the swagger
and the brit­tle, these feline

sim­i­lar­i­ties but what a show
cream and beige, desert leopard
is not like a jaguar, from here

and true he is norteño; a leopard
in Vallarta; the palm trees
course down his white tipped ears, but how
he com­mands an air con­di­tioned room
when he leans for­ward and when

he leans back; the line and the hook
the slack and the tighten

stud­ied, con­struct­ed, devised
con­coct­ed, con­trived; leopard

will extem­po­rize, elbows on knees
and even more: how I see the seams

but bare­ly; clos­er leop­ard, if you say
meet on a Thursday; ok, that’s
two days from Tuesday; count ‘em

iii.

to show me pic­tures, show and tell
leop­ard eager at first

it was doc­u­ments, and I wondered
is a leop­ard try­ing to authenticate

sig­na­tures and dol­lars and contracts
point­ing to the moon or a Mont Blanc
seri­ous­ly looked like I was
exam­in­ing it but it went straightaway

from my head along with the Rolex
I call them leop­ard buffers.
They apply a fine sheen if not to fur
and ran­dom­ly this guy I sued him
and did you win? of course

the foam was fault­less and the woman
in the glass wasn’t me but someone’s

pro­ject­ed reflec­tion; leopard
our native ter­rain is not the same

I do not know if you hear me, or see
I can­not speak to that and there

is noth­ing in a con­tract I can grasp
hold of or cra­dle close to me
and re fran­chis­es I still don’t under­stand it
but if I order eggs you ask is that true
one of your signs, the white tablecloth
might make me break out
leave tire tracks on the pristine

tell­tale; I am not one who can keep
her­self inside her­self, there is always
some­thing spilling out drip­ping from

falling off, where­as when you sweat
you do it as park­ing pin lights
and smooth waiters

iv.

but take my hand like stream
of con­scious­ness pro­ce­dur­al, flow­ing and

syn­co­pat­ed. Straight from a leopard’s mouth
feels like under stage lights like trance like
how could I oth­er­wise but buckle

leop­ard lead me up your gild­ed stairs
in sil­ver slip­per, here my ban­is­ter kiss
a lit­tle art nou­veau, a lit­tle grandiose

Khnopff pan­ther sphinx leop­ard your
curlicued tail whip crack
ser­pent and door­knob; turn it

high up leop­ard, with unmade bed

v.

and would you come to Monterrey
or California and when we get married

scratch­ing leop­ard head
who knows but we will
have a nice life and be happy

in his imag­i­na­tion more Hicks
ox and angel but to the now

I fear a leop­ard pain insistent
as a menis­cus while he tells me I am
light which is, ok

I will be light for a leopard
I will guide his noc­tur­nal way

and hide my fum­bling with torch
and bat­tery, reces­sive, black
pan­ther; all those marks
still there, just hid­den, and you too
give an effect sim­i­lar to that
of print­ed silk pajamas
and did you know a leopard
puts cir­cles over his “i’s”

his black is real­ly blue grey purple
these sud­den descents bamboozle

flick­er of the light flame flare
intake of breath the whoosh
yet how sim­ply a leop­ard will

put one paw in front of the other
tread­ing leop­ard sponge feet
soft­ly, next day, the button
the sleeve and dear heavy tail
been sell­ing for sev­en­teen years

the oth­er man, same job, half empty
passed in and out, now awake
and rant­i­ng about the Carolinas

but maybe can imag­ine an essence
some­times things like that in my presence

how to dis­tin­guish belief from desire
flame from retar­dant but I didn’t much

vi.

while crum­ble faced leop­ard for real
takes me to tell him it’s cool outside

under the trees, but leop­ard reluctant
to go out­side and if I con­vince, finally
a leop­ard will pass five kinds of shade
and noth­ing I can say to move him

cub like and retreat­ing around the eyes
a leop­ard don’t own sunglasses
it brings me to the smile; and that woman
in the glass what is she thinking
I thought I could cook for him or at least

fetch the piz­za, two at a time, remember
the cups and do not drop them, or the plates

vii.

true, I see our bright house with talavera
and your two chil­dren; I see the kitchen sink
and how we are heads and nod­ding hands joining.

I feel cer­tain your moth­er likes me.

And yet re that thing, almost killed you
I kind of thought it, more, in-
con­ve­nience, true, but this is not
one of the things I tease about you

fear; I would say come in but
you are here already so
kick off your shoes here is the couch
move that drunk, I think I say
most­ly want­i­ng to mean it yet

one of his signs, this too
will hap­pen to us will I be
the flick­er of a light flame flare
tan hide in the sun

viii.

even in the new white kitchen
you have brought me here
for my say but what I mean

I am not made from this kind of
stuff; if this real­ly were
an audi­tion for; I would have

already seen the others
in that wait­ing room, gone, left.

When I think a man is poetry
could also mean errat­ic ineffable
self serv­ing unreach­able; the wrong man
for me is the right man for poems

but talk­ing about carpets
although final­ly I under­stand it
what you have meant all along is rugs
a leop­ard has this worked out
some­what inte­ri­or dec­o­ra­tor leopard

this lev­el, before we breach it
you haven’t seen where I live, yet

imag­ine it, a leop­ard leap­ing from toads
or roof leak on pris­tine leop­ard head fur

pan­thera par­dus is that real­ly you
rest­ing in your tree, elu­sive
soli­tary, and large­ly noc­tur­nal. What am I
a car­cass? Here there is no drunk downstairs
you do not have to hoard me or the pizza.
But put on your pain robes and blue smoke
pan­ther, now steam in the shower

ris­ing and you are sit­ting; here
how a leop­ard likes his heat
and to look back such lit­tle boy sitting
and what you will remember

ix.

late night with­in the dri­ve­ways and gates
I said I liked it but because it was all you all yours

there is no lone­li­ness like the residential
pot­ted palms, dri­ve­ways and cars
el otro lado! the sen­tries shout
but only because this is not my country.
You said that too and I wondered

some kind of I felt it
down to my feet my bones, I want this
to be my coun­try. And not because
I have no oth­er coun­try. But this
is not my house, I know it and you

do too. But we con­tin­ue to lie
and have oth­er conversations.
Is this split lev­el and also backyard
and you talk­ing about a pool
to make me gasp, a leop­ard shut in

sub­ur­ban at leop­ard heart
leop­ard on a Li-Lo stop

kitchen counter, four am; that washer
think, would you call that, front loader
and lit­tle yard, beyond the window
for hang­ing things, and another
a bit Rietveld-Shroeder
with­out the col­ors or angles
and same, next door, and next, and next
true; it’s not itself that bothers
look at me with you, quite different

I do not like the sealed windows
the air con­di­tion­ing chills my feet my bones
how am I to please you
into a ball in this square house
and I have already failed twice

at every­thing, that means
the wash­er has han­dles in the side
one side and front and top
view from here most likely
none of the things I worry
will come to pass. Dial and screen
and so many white lines and white buttons

I am elbow and banana skin
on gran­ite, and obvi­ous­ly trees

put me in mind of you.
I am like after the bender

lit up and no one can fix it
umbrel­la and no one can

touch it, with clock feet dragging
sub­ur­ban, maybe snakeskin
maybe crocodile
sheet met­al and injection
mold, until you wake up and even then
I can­not be responsible

how to go back to you
my hand on your side
even in sleep you have this
crest and escarp­ment; resolve

not famil­iar but I fear its becoming
soft breath­ing not like that oth­er man
all the time I thought he was dead

x.

and yet you said I bought you a plate
and so we have here, two plates
bev­elled and gen­tly slop­ing from
medi­um high while I was sitting

kitchen counter and oppo­site, you
and your show and tell; we are mostly

sit­ting in cor­ners drenched
and dan­gling feet thinking
I will not break these, after you
put the eggs but can­not make rancheros
with flour, tor­tillas so this is norteño

break­fast and no leop­ard fur­row brow
a burnt edge does not make me
appre­hen­sive; glances between dish rack
and fry­ing pan I almost forgot

how you crack the eggs
straight for the thing then waver
before you drop it last minute

throw into ques­tion, which kind of sauce
after all what sign how to read it how

to see it an attempt to store this moment
so neat and swift with noth­ing left on the counter.

~

Rose Hunter is the author of [You As Poetry] (Texture Press), [four paths] (Texture Press), and to the riv­er (Artistically Declined Press). She has appeared once pre­vi­ously, in New World Writing (Summer 2012). She is from Australia orig­i­nal­ly and has lived in Canada and Puerto Vallarta, and now lives in Mexico City.