What did your face look like
before your parents were born?
When I was seven I wore a mask for the first time,
the head of a lion, hand-painted,
whiskered and grinning.
That night I prowled my childhood
neighborhood, clawed at doors,
took candy from strangers.
The world was small then, my face
encased in cardboard, thin slits for eyes,
and still I remember, even at seven,
sailing inwards, watching the dance of a candle
flickering in the belly of a gourd.
I watched it shift shape, twitch
to reinvent itself again and again,
capable in that green dim night
of blooming into anything—
cliff birds rising on warm
a fox in the forest, cackling
on its back in the ferns.
I grew light.
Knew that I too was ember,
neither boy nor lion.