The summer before my son was born, I ate tomato sandwiches
with mayonnaise, salt and pepper.
The rain was so heavy in June, the fruit
swelled on the vines and their skins ripped.
I took big bites holding thick bread with two hands,
pink rainwater running down both forearms
to my elbows—everything reduced, then,
to hunger. At night, curled on my side
in the un-airconditioned dark
I dreamt of big cats’ razor tongues
dragging the length of my back,
saber teeth at my throat, not tearing
the skin but feeling for pulse,
their muscled hips coaxing me
into the sweaty delirium of my final weeks.
The cats returned every night until
twenty-six hours before I howled him into being,
I opened. All the rain of June, and July
leaving me for the hardwood floor
where I crouched on all fours looking
for flecks of vernix, tasting my wet fingers,
sniffing the sweet water for signs it was time.
The cats slunk away until now, eating
this tomato sandwich, my first in twelve years—
I recall I was a panther once.