The Leopard Mansion

We hear the leopards pacing in the hall;
their breath dampens the priceless draperies,
softly, softly, their black paws lift and fall.
The rosewood thickness of our bedroom wall
can't shield us. Through parquets, beams, galleries,
we hear the leopards pacing in the hall;
and all we know, the leopard learns, and all
our gilt barriers give. They go where they please,
softly, softly, their slim paws lift and fall.
Their bony rhythm is not beautiful,
we dread to hear their muscles cock and ease,
we fear the leopards crouching in the hall.
Don't listen! Outside, poppies line the mall;
by garden gates there hang no tapestries
where restlessly the bright claws scrape and fall;
But tapestries may show jungles, and tall,
humid black cats that quicken, that release
the trapped and splendid leopards in the hall.
Listen! Listen! The treadles rise and fall.

© 1999, 2000 Grace Solomonoff