Below the Surface

Vicki Mandell-King

– after an untitled piece by Naomi Richman, a 10th grader at Boulder High

The kitten stares out above a spill on the kitchen floor.
Unlike Narcissus, the kitten does not look down.

If he did, he would not see himself as he is,
A kitten, or even a grown cat. He’d see Tiger.

I see this depiction not as growth and maturation,
but the artist’s dream of her own transforming.

This seeing may be no more than
my own desire surfaced and mirrored back.

On the anniversary of my mother’s death,
I leaf through an album she made,

pasting in photos of wildlife
– she loved animals – and labeling

lion, grizzly, antelope, cardinal, cobra
in her instantly-recognizable script.

Passing by a storefront window, I glimpse
an aging woman – white hair, lined face –

and must remember to strut
– a gait once so natural – and break

a recent habit of hesitant step
in fear of falling.

I do not recognize myself. Like Mother,
I carry within me a younger,

more lovely image that sometimes is
mirrored back in the eyes of the beguiled.

Turning the drawing around, Tiger stares out
above brooding cloud.

If Tiger looked down, he’d see a sweet cub
before ferocity became necessity.

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