Three Poems | Zaji Cox

Bacchus, Caravaggio, Wikimedia Commons
I burned sage to clear the air of her
but she lingered,
stuck around my cluttered and dark room, sucked
at the available air, until there
was hardly any left to breathe. I kept waiting
for her to come back, to come up from behind
and press her fingers onto my face,
to dig her nails into my eyes
and stick flecks of silver polish
on my chin. I shower in cold water but still
feel her scratch down my back,
leaving raw red marks on my skin.

The Followers
Hedonistic heathens
will drink the night,
will taste ten thousand daisies
in a rose-colored city.
They will stumble in shadowed groups
under stringed lights
with mouths wide open,
drinking, grinning, falling
into each other’s arms
and sway by the road
on their way to the forest.

The heathens follow none
but their pleasures. In the trees they grasp
at each other’s palms,
reaching, wanting,
and taking. Wolves dash
at the sound of their hoots and gasps
for air in the dark. And they do not settle
but collapse, in a confused tangle,
a shared embrace like twining ivy—
a firmness that nature itself would envy.

The Mane
Today I let them see my mane. It is out
in a dark magnificent mass about my head,
not quite straight,
not quite wavy.
My mane is not like what’s been seen before—
at least not by those
who come to gape and pet,
with timid and gentle fingers.
After yearning to touch it for so long,
The fingers treat my mane like it may at once
be a thick enough jungle to trap a hand
and weak enough to fall out in clumps at a caress.
But it can handle the exploring clumsy fingers
that roam and pull its wisps up to watch them fall, the fingers
that squeeze handfuls of this new territory.
I watch a new merging
of amusement and confusion:
It’s not what they thought it would look, feel, move like.
It does not frame my face like the manes they know.
It is exotic.
I am exotic.
So strange, isn’t it?
But it won’t bite. I won’t bite,
bare my fangs with a low growl
at the errant touch.
No, today, I suppress any urge that rises
to my surface and struggles
to claw its way out. I am not ashamed.
I tell myself:
I am not ashamed.
I, forcing pride, let the hands pet my mane,
my exotic magnificent mass.

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