by Colin W. Sargent


by Colin W. Sargent

       When the captain’s gig
            swept too close to shore,
            a leopard fell
            from the jungle canopy
            and lay unconscious on deck.


Lulu was alive,
so the crew removed her
to the freighter
and nursed her back to health. 


The captain took a shine to her.
She took her meals
in his cabin ever after,
sitting in her straight-back chair
and drinking tea
when she wasn’t reading Camille
or the works of Michel Butor.


Lulu had a good head for figures:
as her freighter traveled the world
she worked out import duties,
recommended reverse cargoes,
calculated rates of exchange.


When they returned to Lulu’s home
on the coast of Africa, the gig
once again came too close to shore
and the leopard Giselle fell from the trees.
She was out three days
before she woke and joined Lulu
at her studies, manducating
upon Voyage au bout de la nuit
and some short plays by Jean Genet.


The captain should have sensed something
was afoot when the gig closed
on the palm trees a third time
and lithe Esmeralda fell to grace.
A heartbeat later she was devouring
Saussure and Jaques Lacan.



By the time the ship reached port
in Lisbon, Lulu, Gizelle, and Esmerelda
had taken over. They told the humans
if they’d open up the meat locker
they’d be allowed thirty minutes
to board the lifeboats and escape.


The leopards’ business acumen
was remarked upon in ports
across the globe, which gave rise
to a fleet of ships, with headquarters
in Barcelona; London; Paris;
and Oswego, New York.


But who was kidding whom?
The principals of the shipping firm
felt a yen for Paris, and soon
the leopards took quarters
on the Left Bank, dazzling onlookers
with their diamond-studded collars.
To stave off fright from crowds,
they paid models to hold
the ends of their silver leashes.


The models were chosen
for their slinky walk,
the way they looked in heels,
the degree their high cheekbones
lent a futuristic aspect to their faces,
and responsiveness to the leash.
For who knows whom is in control
of which end of a leash?

Each of the êtres humains flashed
with dark hair, black lipstick,
and black nails.


When one of the models
requested further direction,
Lulu snarled. “Whatever you do,
just keep your mouth shut
and keep walking.”


The three pairs swung into a dark alley
near the Rue de Petits Champs.
Whom did they see but three black panthers
in ruby-studded collars?


Each of the panthers
was leashed to a pale blonde model
wearing winter whites, with bright red lipstick
and red nail polish, voguing.


They drew closer and faced off,
halted at the edge of dream.