Night Lions - Poem by Tara Teeling
Somewhere between midnight and dawn,
I find myself wide-eyed. I would swear
I heard heated sniffing, but all is now quiet.
The lids are not heavy, though the eyes
are prickly cotton, and I’m feeling
tomorrow chastise and slap my cheeks.
The hot tea that calmed me at nine
wreaks havoc at three, and I’m
roused by the teeming flood gates;
my dignity is threatened, as are
the bed sheets.
At ten past the hour I’m back in
my dent, and I’m studying walls
and ceilings. I can’t see the spiders,
but I know they are weaving their webs.
I only see grey in the nightlight, so many
fuzzy and ominous shapes.
Why is it that the dead seem alive
at night? Why do they menace when
the sun is no longer there to blanket me?
The faces of loved ones horrify and mock
me in the darkness when I’d believed
they’d held me dear those years before.
The sound of the house twitching is
the herald of doom that looms. The
moans and groans possess the power to
stop this heart from beating. In the
daylight hours, I feel nothing, but
at night, I’m lying bloodied in the coliseum;
the night lions circle me in want.
My parents will die and leave me orphaned.
I’ll feel alone, abandoned and twelve. I won’t
know how to cope, and I’ll lose the use of
my legs. I’ll be grey-haired, but pigtailed, and
nothing will ever feel the same again.
My love will stop breathing. He’ll be
waxed like fruit, but cold like packed cod,
and I’ll freeze next to him, unable to move.
I shall want to pull up the covers, never letting
my feet touch the floor. I’ll pray that he’ll return,
if only to take me with him.
I’ll be alone on my birthday, and I’ll bake
a chocolate cake. The candles will bleed
their colour over the icing; the light will be jagged
and squiggled by tears, like wet, neon crayon.
I’ll eat one piece, cringing at the sweetness
which is now toxic to my tongue.
I’ll throw the rest out and try to remember
how it used to be or how my name sounded in song.
I won’t even know how old I am.
One day I’ll be old and friendless. I’ll have nothing.
My children won’t remember their night feedings
or the scratch-made cookies. I‘ll be left to
fade in an antiseptic corner, and my name
will be ‘Sweetheart’, for the women dressed in white.
I’ll cry softly to the window, and they’ll carry on,
not even offering me a tissue.
I’ll be gone and no one will know. There’ll be
nothing to remember, no story to kindle smiles.
I’ll be a name. A white-haired, withered lady.
I’ll be a breath that breezed through and
it will be years before they know I’ve left.
And then the sun breaks through the blinds,
and my love murmurs dreamily from his
side. I begin to feel heavy and numb and
roll toward the yellow wall that bursts
with cheer and butterscotch, wondering
why I never noticed how soft my
feather pillow is.
I’m feeling drunk and groggy, luxuriating
in the soft safety of buttercream sheets.
When I close my eyes, I’ll still be here,
and the world will be the same.
Though feeling grouchy and hung over,
no blood will have been lost, and
the smell of life will revive me.
Tonight I’ll try again with the hope
that the night lions are at rest.
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