This was the midnight the panther started to sing. In nightmud
I touched my fingers to small prayers. Each lacuna in the road
a burned braille. In a leafy blue light, the world quiet as it reemerged.
Ascending to the top of the mountain only to return with the messages
of birds. On a cool seat of rock, my half-mind breaks free through
easy tapes. Rewinding—a blind video of memory, easy fingers
into the childhood wheel. Moonmoths and fireflies
catch a cold fire, and in warm, unloosening darkness—
I am brushing out dander barefoot. Holding meridian
of a horse’s face —in paused gallop. I once was the light moth,
self-killing in the night. I listen from the river as fish stop slapping
the earth. I beat against this dying sonar with pools of ink.
Oil—a melted marigold—seeps into bowls of nests wet, marshsleeping.
Running on all fours up the stairs, as if I could catch myself
from the tantrum of being young. I was caught on the rusted stave,
all notes of the nightingale darken
into stamped-out ants, like a fire, just
Born to Pakistani-American immigrant artists, Jai Hamid Bashir was raised in the Southwest. Jai has been published by The American Poetry Review, Palette Poetry, The Margins, Academy of American Poets and others.
Panther illustration by C.B. Auder.