It is April of 1998, the year of the tiger, and
she was with you from the very beginning of it all.
Scarlet-stripped, you are thrown into life too fast,
far-flung and ravenous in a California hospital too small
to hold you, and you screamed because she leapt
into your throat and made your voice her echo.
But all too soon you realized that you were born
with a rib cage, and you locked her away before
she could even taste your mother’s blood on your lips.
Fourth grade beneath printer-paper snowflakes,
alphabets of boredom. They tell you that a heart is
atrium and ventricle but even after seeing the
neat little diagram you don’t quite believe it –
maybe everyone else has a fist of crimson whipcord
in their chests but yours is too loud to be toothless.
Yours must be a tiger, an apricot tigress hidden
away in the alveolar thicket of your bamboo lungs, and
you know it is true because you can feel her footstep,
her breathless shriek, the rhythmic boom as she