The Guardian of the Temple, Toulouse, France

One Poem by SR Young

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Beast Dance


The dance begins with a deer and an old-world intersection1,
asphalt stripped of symmetry, wovendeep and opencracked—
ruptures of stone.
            We watch as the deer arrives limping,
            a severed hoof and a trail of blood
            winding like a boa2 in shallow water.





We do not help her: our silentwatching is honorable.
This is the closest thing to mercy we can envision.
Her cries echo
            hopelessness and bring tears
            to our dry cheeks. This is a joy—
            our cheeks are dry3 so often.





Soon, the matador4 arrives, its hooves smacking
the ground like the lips of children chewing hardtack,
mouths puckered
            with salt. And soon, the deer
            lies dead, its slain body spread
            like a Christ5 on a groundcross.





We, ancestors of the City, flip the switch and flood the intersection
with streetlamplight, sightstriking the matador, for there is little light
after the future. Yet
            there is jubilee and carnage.6 We,
            stampede of the City, charge at the matador.
            Our bodies surround the beast.





We tearplunge our fingers into muscle and bone,7 a body
given up to us. Steam rises from the tears in beastflesh.
We scoop the heat
            into our palms and cup
            our hands over lovers’ faces
            to warm their noses.





The dance ends with a parade and chalkdust cannoned into the air,
the color of every flower, a light prism blooming.8 We shed our clothes,
feel wind between our thighs.
            Our bodies are briefly holy—we
            are feral and free—as the scent of
            the sunset settles on our skin.





[1] Little remains of the City, but some structures resist the revegetation. This includes the steel beams that carry electric light high above the ground—what they once named streetlamps.

[2] Last solstice, the remains of four children were found in the gullet of a dead boa. The snake’s last victim crushed its windpipe attempting to escape.

[3] Near the End, they say, every source of water was conserved, including sweat, urine and tears.

[4] Matadors are named for the rose red tint of their tough hide when dried and cured.

[5] An ancient myth of ritual sacrifice.

[6] We tell stories to our children of the ancestral carnage—of small rooms with cages for those who only wished to be free.

[7] Some ancestors strove to rid their bodies from themselves, to eliminate their mortality. This abandonment of the body, it seems, made some think they could abandon the Earth as well.

[8] Close your eyes and squeeze tight to see the residue of light floating in the emptiness.




SR YoungSR Young is a queer, genderfluid poet, currently residing in Kansas, where they have earned an MA in English from Kansas State University and serve as the editor-in-chief for Touchstone Literary Magazine. In addition to, their work appears in multiple issues of 13th Floor MagazineThe Oneota Review, and elsewhere.

Header photo of the Guardian of the Temple, Toulouse, France, by AriesDavid, courtesy Shutterstock.

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