I still remember the concrete perimeters where we walked,
as if two feet down there were fires and floods that we mustn't fall into.
We were lions
I followed you through the jungle of your condo's parking lot;
A handful of carefully planted evergreens the only cover from the dangers of jungle highway 401.
I still see your small hands and long fingers, making shapes in front of your eyes;
your inner verbal monologue barely audible;
your head jerking from side to side.
I fight back the ingrained urge to say "nice quiet" during the moments you stop.
You are smiling. That's all that matters.
I've been charged with the task of teaching you
how to put on this vast ensemble of
when I can only haphazardly put it on myself.
So instead I teach you to climb trees
look for sleeping raccoons in high branches
and the difference between a jungle and a forest.
I help you twist bits of grass and leaves and fluff
and we leave tiny creations behind
"to feed the birds," you tell me.
You are immersed. I join you.
We are silent, enveloped by shadows and tree limbs and wonder.
One day I took you to the real woods;
a small patch, surrounded by city,
but a forest in your eyes.
We walked slowly; exploring.
You were quieter than usual.
You did not twirl your hair or your fingers.
Suddenly you looked up at me, your eyes searching:
"We are wild girls?"
Yes, love. Yes we are.
I could have praised your language, then,
rewarded your "spontaneous" use of it with
a high five or a token; but.
I am not more your therapist than you are mine.
I didn't know how to tell you it was my last day.
How much language could you really grasp;
or, would you cry?
So I told you half the truth -"I'm going to Africa soon", I said.
"I will be gone for a long time. I can't be your teacher. You will have a different teacher."
"You will miss me?" --- yes.
"You will see lions?" ----yes!
"And lionesses?" ---- yes, lionesses too.
"And cubs?!" I laughed. 'Yes, I will see cubs, too."
You were satisfied.
Perhaps that is where you think I am, still.
Roaming the wilds of the Serengeti
climbing from tree to tree.
perhaps you dream that can one day be you, too;
and that way we'll both have escaped the confines of this