Zoe Boyer

Make Me What I Am

I saw you once, a quick switch
of tail slinking behind the scrub oak,
too large for a common cat, too

plush for a dog, a bottle-brush
flash of tawny fur, so swift I couldn’t
be sure. Still I turned back, retraced

the trail to the road’s safety, all my
wild ways pared down to the soft
heart of me, the woman who wants

a gas stove and plumbed water,
no matter my moon-eyed raving for
having foraged worm-riven apples

from beside the creek, bathed in
the silted stream, legs tangled
in algae—I came home, that day,

took a hot shower, boiled the apples
with an easy flick of the knob.
When confirmation arrives—a note

slipped in the mailbox warning of
your presence—I imagine us
prowling the labyrinthine streets

in tandem, you stalking the deer
who have long claimed the yards’
tall grasses, while I lope like prey

through the thin swath of woods,
nimble-footed and wary, each
rustled branch no longer bird,

squirrel, or lizard, but you crouched
in wait, your lambent eyes trained
on the quivering pulse of my neck.

Do you feel the dislocation of a land
tamed to pavement, a life resigned
to the periphery while I revel in

free reign, in the false comfort of the
neighbor’s chatter, traffic’s thrum
filtering through the evergreens?

I feel it now, the strangeness of thinking
myself something other than animal,
of a door with a lock and soft sheets.

Were you to come tooth and claw,
fetid breath and instinct, that’s all
it would take to make me what I am