I’ve loved you like a leopard cub from the day
You stalked into my classroom —flip-flopping
Around the circle of desks— staring at me,
Wondering aloud: “who the hell is this guy?”
You —who crashed like a meteor, at 14, into my life
On that too-hot September day— began to wreak your happy havoc
In a stagnant place that unknowingly longed for you.
Like Odysseus readily recognized his long lost Telemachus,
We knew our souls knew each other.
You were a problem child I wanted to solve;
So I picked you up and carried you in my gritted teeth,
Slapped you around with a tender paw until you fell into line.
You were just like a lost leopard cub, separated from family,
The one that had a twin but needed to be on his own.
We’re leopards, you and me -social, secretive, and solitary.
But when I spotted you alone,
Laid out -paralyzed- on the ground,
I leapt down from my classroom tree
And roared onto the football field, to protect you, my cub,
Who, somehow, unreasonably, seemed a part of me.
I still don’t know why I chose you -and you, me-
To let in.
But in that late spring,
when you asked me to “bring it in”
For that first hug, I held you and,
Suddenly, knew that what life, loss, and lost love
Had long denied me, destiny had laughingly fulfilled.
Like a dozing puzzle-player,
You were a missing piece I pretended wasn’t necessary.
And I still don’t know why
You accepted my queer, childless, lone-leopard heart
I so long thought
Unworthy of a son’s love.
But answered prayers have a way of prowling into
Our empty rooms so quietly.
Your trust I’ve cherished holding;
The phases of your wild youth
I carry like secret treasures unfolding.
You, not of my flesh but of my soul;
That silent prayer that —in being answered—
Made me whole.