How to Choose

In a pride of lions, it is the female of the species that is the primary hunter, stalking at night amongst the savannah grasses, and yet when I think of them, the lions, it is the image of a mother lion carrying her cub in her mouth that I see first, the way all that killing power is tempered, how the hinge of her jaw is not unlike the arm that, when bent, supports the weight of the boy as he leans his head into my shoulder.

And I think then of how my own mouth, should I choose it, could also be weapon, how tongue and lips and teeth could also be weapon, how words can always be weapon. How there are days instead, sometimes many days, sometimes days like today days, when I just swallow mine. Because it is my gift to shape them, and I no longer choose wound.

I no longer choose to wound, would make them instead into open palms, branches at dusk, edge of new moon once glimpsed. No longer choose wound, would make them instead into soft thrum of bats near trees, wind on leaves, insect bodies illumed by porch light, the bright of too pink blossoms amongst the bushes. I would make them night, make them stars, make them into the shape of what I still hold, not the things I keep having to let go, wound, not into something that can wound, not into any kind of weapon. I would swallow those other words instead like day swallows night, the bright heat of them in my belly. Keep every last one. Give none of them away. Give none of me away.

Because when I think of my mouth, the way that words have always been my gift to shape, I will think of that lion hunting at night amongst the savannah grasses, the sharp of her teeth, the rough edges of her tongue, think too of how, with those same teeth, she carries the cub. How she always knows the difference between love and damage, that finest of fine lines in between. Knows exactly how to choose.

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