I was born with scales. Smooth, reptilian,
My father modeled the palmetto leaves on our rooftop
after my skin.
The pangolin became my totem animal. Tribal elders
sacrificed one to ward off evil spirits.
The villagers were not appeased. They blamed me for
the lightning, the burning jungle,
the ransacking hordes. My scales expanded to disperse
the heat of their hatred.
When the psychopomp arrived to guide my soul into the afterlife,
I sensed my end was near.
The shamans sipped on ayahuasca tea and pointed their bony fingers
at me for the scarcity of hunted game.
Ah boule oah! they cried. He is the cause! What shall be done to him?
The people responded as if one,
To the cliff, they shouted. They dragged my battered body to the top
and threw me off.
My scales had grown enough to break my falls. This time they stretched
until I glided to safety.
Now I perch on a crag. My scales have grown to full feathers. With my arms
outstretched, I form
an expansive wingspan to blot out the sun and send darkness across the fields.
It is time to swoop down.
Jimmy Pappas was a finalist in the 2017 Rattle Poetry Contest where he won the 2018 Readers Choice Award. His interview with editor Tim Green is on YouTube’s Rattlecast #34.