In the cage is the lion. She paces with her memories. Her body is a record of her past. As she moves back and forth, one may see it all: the lean frame, the muscular legs, the paw enclosing long sharp claws, the astonishing speed of her response. She was born in this garden. She has never in her life stretched those legs. Never darted farther than twenty yards at a time. Only once did she use her claws. Only once did she feel them sink into flesh. And it was her keeper's flesh. Her keeper whom she loves, who feeds her, who would never dream of harming her, who protects her. Who in his mercy forgave her mad attack, saying this was in her nature, to be cruel at a whim, to try to kill what she loves. He had come into her cage as he usually did early in the morning to change her water, always at the same time of day, in the same manner, speaking softly to her, careful to make no sudden movement, keeping his distance, when suddenly she sank down, deep down into herself, the way wild animals do before they spring, and then she had risen on all her strong legs, and swiped him in one long, powerful, graceful movement across the arm. How lucky for her he survived the blow. The keeper and his friends shot her with a gun to make her sleep. Through her half-open lids she knew they made movements around her. They fed her with tubes. They observed her. They wrote comments in notebooks. And finally they rendered a judgment. She was normal. She was a normal wild beast, whose power is dangerous, whose anger can kill, they had said. Be more careful of her, they advised. Allow her less excitement. Perhaps let her exercise more. She understood none of this. She understood only the look of fear in her keeper's eyes. And now she paces. Paces as if she were angry, as if she were on the edge of frenzy. The spectators imagine she is going through the movements of the hunt, or that she is readying her body for survival. But she knows no life outside the garden. She has no notion of anger over what she could have been, or might be. No idea of rebellion. It is only her body that knows of these things, moving her, daily, hourly, back and forth, back and forth, before the bars of her cage.
He says that woman speaks with nature. That she hears voices from under the earth. That wind blows in her ears and trees whisper to her. That the dead sing through her mouth and the cries of infants are clear to her. But for him this dialogue is over. He says he is not part of this world, that he was set on this world as a stranger. He sets himself apart from woman and nature. And so it is Goldilocks who goes to the home of the three bears, Little Red Riding Hood who converses with the wolf, Dorothy who befriends a lion, Snow White who talks to the birds, Cinderella with mice as her allies, the Mermaid who is half fish, Thumbelina courted by a mole. (And when we hear in the Navaho chant of the mountain that a grown man sits and smokes with bears and follows directions given to him by squirrels, we are surprised. We had thought only little girls spoke with animals.)We are the bird's eggs. Bird's eggs, flowers, butterflies, rabbits, cows, sheep; we are caterpillars; we are leaves of ivy and sprigs of wallflower. We are women. We rise from the wave. We are gazelle and doe, elephant and whale, lilies and roses and peach, we are air, we are flame, we are oyster and pearl, we are girls. We are woman and nature. And he says he cannot hear us speak. But we hear.
Her womb from her body. Separation. Her clitoris from her vulva. Cleaving. Desire from her body. We were told that bodies rising to heaven lose their vulvas, their ovaries, wombs, that her body in resurrection becomes a male body. The Divine Image from woman, severing, immortality from the garden, exile, the golden calf split, birth, sorrow, suffering. We were told that the blood of a woman after childbirth conveys uncleanness. That if a woman's uterus is detached and falls to the ground, that she is unclean. Her body from the sacred. Spirit from flesh. We were told that if a woman has an issue and that issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be impure for seven days. The impure from the pure. The defiled from the holy. And whoever touches her, we heard, was also impure. Spirit from matter. And we were told that if our garments are stained we are unclean back to the time we can remember seeing our garments unstained, that we must rub seven substances over these stains, and immerse our soiled garments. Separation. The clean from the unclean. The decaying, the putrid, the polluted, the fetid, the eroded, waste, defecation, from the unchanging. The changing from the sacred. We heard it spoken that if a grave is plowed up in a field so that the bones of the dead are lost in the soil of the field, this soil conveys uncleanness. That if a member is severed from a corpse, this too conveys uncleanness, even an olive pit's bulk of flesh. That if marrow is left in a bone there is uncleanness. And of the place where we gathered to weep near the graveyard, we heard that planting and sowing were forbidden since our grieving may have tempted unclean flesh to the soil. And we learned that the dead body must be separated from the city. Death from the city. Wilderness from the city. Wildness from the city. The Cemetery. The Garden. The Zoological Garden. We were told that a wolf circled the walls of the city. That he ate little children. That he ate women. That he lured us away from the city with his tricks. That he was a seducer and he feasted on the flesh of the foolish, and the blood of the errant and sinful stained the snow under his jaws. The errant from the city. The ghetto. The ghetto of Jews. The ghetto of Moors. The quarter of prostitutes. The ghetto of blacks. The neighborhood of lesbians. The prison. The witch house. The underworld. The underground. The sewer. Space Divided. The inch. The foot. The mile. The boundary. The border. The nation. The promised land. The chosen ones.