At A Luxury Resort

In a mini-zoo one night
a caged jaguar screams
a sound unformed by tongue,
amplified by rib bellows,
pressed through iron bars
until it shatters my tourist sleep,
brings me to the animal’s side.

Once jaguars slid silently through
this jungle, spots rippling tall grass
vertical as swords. Their cries echoed
nine times in temples bearing their names,
and priests bent in fear and gratitude
offering sacrificial hearts to holy jaws.

What can I know of a caged god’s needs?
The intrusion of my eyes breaks his patience,
sends him in circles on Nopalli-sized paws
to scratch scars in gray concrete. He
bellows again from his grassless cell,
sprays, as if at any moment he might
ignite, burn in his own water, and ascend.

The hotel believes he is a charm
on our vacation bracelets, exotic
to watch as a museum piece, eyes
studded with jade. But alone
at his dark cage, far from hotel lights,
real eyes warn me away. I’m not
the one he’s calling. But tonight,
I’m the one who answers, the one
who remembers to bring a heart.

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About the Author

Carolyn Dahl is the 2020 winner of the Poetry of the Plains and Prairies chapbook contest for A Muddy Kind of Love, which will be published by North Dakota State University. Her 2019 chapbook, Art Preserves What Can’t Be Saved, was a first place winner in the National Federation of Press Women’s Communication contest, the Press Women of Texas’ contest, and also received an Honorable Mention in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards.

Carolyn Dahl
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