My Griffin (Houston 1976)

The window trembles

when he knocks against it,

his black coat matted

with torn clumps

telling of great battles.

 

He’s big like a small fox.

We open the pass-through to its frame

then lower our heads for the

ritual tête-à-tête,

this feline let inside

during the sly days of summer

when a padlock rations my best friend’s pantry

and parents often forget to call.

 

He pirouettes, but she surprises:

Touch them. They don’t feel like

the balls of a neutered cat.

I search for courage,

my hand a lifeless claw

hesitating towards the bulbous sacs —

What do neutered feel like?

his tail swishing left and right,

a third eye sentinel.

 

Ceasing the mischief —

a direct glare

his eyes crowned with divots

scored by mockingbirds,

he the king of the bayou that

flows away from our townhouses

like all who can escape their

reduced status.

 

I demur, as I had learned,

folding my fingers into the

rib of my femininity.

 

Then we wait together

for the bubbling butter Saltines

sitting on the fading Formica

a shimmy of distance between us,

the first given to him.

 

He head-butts my elbow for more

and I freeze

afraid of his bite

yet proud to be chosen —

more than a dishwater blonde tween

on an otherwise forgettable afternoon.

 

He returns to me decades later

morphed into a Puma

foraging the rainforests of Belize,

his coat a sleek black carpet

I imagine riding away from

a few too cowardly

for manhood,

their hearts castrated

playing cat and mouse

or worse

with those of us

who learn first

to acquiesce,

never to fight,

never to run.