3 December 2019

The feline, a poem by Rethabile Masilo

Often, at this age, moody as a feline,
I stare past these bars into the distance,
my head nodding as I walk
to count the number of contacts
my paws make with the prison floor.

Every so often some boy will stand
by the padlocked gate, or lean against it;
at which point the cheetah in me visualises
blood on his body. For always
when they come,

after church, lunch and sex, they are
careless with themselves; and me I like
to see blood squirt, to smother prey
with the fur of my body to renew
my instincts with myself.

Sometimes I forget this whole thing
of being in a cage, and dream instead
of a nap beside a clearing in the woods
to whose mirrored pool deer come
to lap water, and there, quite commonly,

some doe will edge close, then rapidly tick
away in a last effort to cheat death.
Occasionally I refuse to eat what food
they shove toward me on a plate here: a hoof
or a hand is what I'd rather have. Both

hooked to an arm which is tied to a body.
But rest assured, I am no assassin—I eat
what I kill. The thing is… it’s been so long
that now I do not really recall what the meat
of a scared creature is meant to taste like.

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