Of course it’s breath in the night, irrevocable fog,
tongue that slips in silver stars.
A dream, a woman says, but what’s most disconcerting
is the last bit hanging from the knife.
A woman says that which has no earthly business in the garden.
A woman says, slower, more deliberate. When a man reads
a woman reaches out, falls into gold-tipped bottlebrush,
mauve hibiscus of desert-rose, red-spiked Hakea.
How the fingers dance over them like keys:
ivory smile, wet moon.
A man says tell me again about the ripe stars,
how the garden drowned in dust, how the rust
gets everywhere, even the waves, even the small
strand of whisker that brushes past.
The truth? Night had eyes, the only way to follow
was to touch what sky had fallen, what pet darkness kept.
Here, a raft in the desert, lashed by human hands;
the crumbled walls, the thing that sits
outside the hollow tree and wails
and wails and wails.
Sound like a stone jugular. The storm
ran red, till dusk, the day torn open, the dust
afraid, as if running from something,
thorn in its paw.
Matthew Minicucci is the author of the chapbook Reliquary (2013). His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The Gettysburg Review, The Southern Review, The Journal, Hayden’s Ferry Review, West Branch, and Crazyhorse, among others.
“Panther” was originally published in Cry Baby (TLR Early Fall 2013).