How can we know the dancer from the dance?
I was not the fox, yet it came to pass that I had lain in the elements until they gathered me down to the joints and within them. I was not the fox, yet I stole from the gardens: blue eggs and mice, snippets of lily and blackberry, parched leaves on my sleeve, a fallen nestling. I gnawed masses of color in the starless cities. I reveled in shrubs, prodded the dirt for crabapple and plums, trash spills, juice boxes, foil grizzled with fat. I was creaturely enough to seek my prey. Nights roughened my coat. The wind and the dew became me. Days I slept in the alleys until I roused to the aeriform dark.
I was not the fox, but I sniffed the sky, fractured and otherly, for we had ruined its logic, locked its cloth in a warehouse of knowing. I longed for a nameless burrow, for sexless dreams versus the mounted hills. I plodded along strip malls, lights sluicing refracted puddles beneath neon, 24-hour signs. I waded through drifts of limber grass, behind the tire shops and car lots, corporate parks, detention centers, fences capped with saw-tooted wire over fields. I could smell the people everywhere, their indelicate books, philosophies, words they had riddled over and over until the ink had purchase. I was not the fox, but I knew the dancer from the dance. I had eaten a great deal of Linnaeus. I failed only questions in my own interrogations -- quizzes gleaned from primers and the half-mad.
I was not the red fox, gray fox, fennec, kit, or arctic fox. I was calcium and fur. I was water. I was carbon, bone, the heat of each metacarpal clinging to dirt, and the crust on the mantle where you too could ponder your globe, deep in thread counts. I would plod in my fur between trash barrel fires of the outcast, or tinseled towns of corrugated iron against the frost. I’d sleep on a grate in your capitals among the bodies loved and reviled. Not the fox but a wilderness that melts beneath each layer of self until it becomes what you wished for me in the dance, as if you willed me into my name along the will-less coasts, the constellations combing a deep sky, embroidered canyons, hills knotted with almonds.
I was not your Landscape with Fox. I breathed pesticides with the fallen logs and rafters as I ran from your flames. Even then, I was not the genera or snout rooting for footprints in the mountains, in snow towns locked in their inland valleys with lamp-lit windows, odors of meat and dough clustered on winds that shifted across the shades, moons bedded inside aortic tics with memories of heightened love, skin tendering skin pricked with warmth, the openings, the once-upon-a-time when courage and loose faith entered each other, when you lost what self you kept, and woke to the weft of dust speckling the noon bed. I was the intermingling of my scalp, every bone and tendon of my body, combed with my own tongue. I scarfed from my coat the vermin come to roost and pitch. I was not the fox, yet I watched for you amid the cities. I licked fast-food in crosswalks, parking lots, boardwalks, flattened boxes blanched by the sun, whisked, and alighting like gulls in this country of annihilations.