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Breath & Shadow

Fall 2021 - Vol. 18, Issue 4

"Leo’s Bite" and "Roar"

written by

Veronica Ashenhurst

"Leo’s Bite"

Enduring illness made me forget you,

as one might forget magenta.

Then I recalled your shoulder

undulating under sun

that seldom warms

my joints and indoor skin.

Storm huntress of blue

wildebeest and zebra, serene as baobab,

you held a dappled lion cub in your jaw.

I—childless—envied your wild motherhood:

the cub’s mouth searching

for your dark teat, and warmth.

Patience and planets whirl

inside your gilt fur cage;

inside your gallop, a grassland sea.

I—struggling with a flight of stairs—

coveted your dance, the pride of sisters,

whiskered understanding.

Wildcat, I begrudged you,

until I remembered that you—

remote, but with a pulse like mine—

could help me bear my ruined body,

as you endure wind,

hunt, birth, and open sky.

Let me wrench a piece of joy

from this life of teacups and disease,

the way you wrench

wherewithal from the entrails,

nutrient-rich, of your spent

and bowing prey.


I am urged to carve an identity

from illness, despondency, wheelchair;

this identity will seemingly bring me

friendship on social media, until I delete it.

I am supposed to knit hats for homeless people,

live on the state’s monthly thousand dollars,

and watch my mother—aged, anxious wren,

spine bent—trying to care for me.

As I wait for attention to a neglected disease,

I am exhorted to tune my ire, a violin;

rallied to mistrust the lure to rend my body,

and face instead, with poise, a quarter-life in bed.

Yet I am not what I am supposed to be,

tired of counting breaths—I still have a roar.

If I could burn the decades I have lost,

I’d shout into the ocean’s salted surf.

I long to paint on wall-sized canvas,

travel, sunburnt, by myself,

kiss a man at dusk in Athens or Madrid,

and fill notebooks with the flush of life.

I yearn to eat a lion’s heart,

taste its blood and courage,

and adopt that blood and valor,

like a brother, for my own.

Veronica Ashenhurst is a member of the Law Society of Ontario, in Canada, and has published articles on legal education in the Dalhousie Law Journal, the Ottawa Law Review, and the Canadian Legal Education Annual Review.  She lives with severe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS).

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