Tori Cárdenas

Come and Sleep

From the beginning, I felt your tail around my neck.
But you danced with me in the moonlight and Mars
and the Sun wrestled in your hair when you ran.
Your eyes always in neon retrograde—amber, electric hazel.

You towed me between the foxglove and through gloxinias,
your hot breath on my cheek, my hands nestled
in your dress, you tilted my head toward the moon,
wrung the stars from your hands, tasted the marrow there.

For months, I tended this grass depression in the back
of my mind for you to spend rainy nights out of the wetness.
You pounced between boulders, trying to catch a glimpse
of me, visiting more often, rolling in the moss and ferns

behind the chicken coop, pawing at my door. Once,
I found a white feather in the valley of your back.
After that, I thought I heard the chickens clucking
closer together in the night. On the day you felt safe enough

to eat from my hand, you opened your knapsack in my kitchen,
mice and fat caterpillars wriggled into the floor, crimped lichen
crinkled through a burst seam, books upon books upon books
you stacked to the ceiling, and downy fluff skulked into shadow.

Cartilaginous tibia, shorter than fingers, buried in the bedclothes,
and muddy prints at the back door, this wriggling in my heart.
Always, your eyes had this retrograde, anxious with the spark before
thunderstorms. I began to leave the door unlocked at night.

Dawn came again. You were humming, cooking eggs on the stove,
though we had no eggs and we hadn’t had eggs because chickens
were too frightened to have eggs lately. Your hair full of Mars
and Sun pinned a single white feather down along your neck.

Against a pale wall in morning sun I saw your tail,
bushy and buoyant and bristling.

The spatula tumbled to the tile, not lipstick this, but blood
staining your lips, your black paws snuggled up your sleeves,
and two eggs blistered to black eyes as you scurried
sideways into the forest you came from.

Some nights, I hear this scratching at my door.
It’s unlocked, but I know you won’t enter.
We still press our hands together through the heavy
oak. I will learn to love you like this.

Tori Cárdenas is a brown, tattooed poet from Northern New Mexico. In 2014, she graduated summa cum laude from the University of New Mexico. Currently, Cárdenas lives and works in Albuquerque. Find her here.