Conversation with a Snow Leopard
February 22nd, 2005

“I’m sorry.”

It’s all I can think to say to these eyes that demand from me, in unblinking boldness, a response.

I drop my eyes in shame and break from the naked contact we have made.

Like a guardian who is left to explain to the bewildering, trusting and truth seeking eyes of a toddler whose parent has died, I stand speechless, seeking words I’ll never find.

Words and will lost, the curiosity of this beautiful beast reaches right through the wire fence and pulls my spirit directly into the cage.

Unexpectedly, I find myself without breathe. I gasp…

And am released.

The eyes blink and suddenly they speak…

“What is this word, “freedom” of which you think and are trying to breathe?”

My heart drops down. My eyes well up.

“Stop!” I demand of my whispering soul. “Be quiet!” “These secrets are not for you to share!”

But the voice chatters on…

“500 snow leopards living in captivity. Four to five thousand left living in the wild. Poaching continues. Human homes swallowing up their dens. Only in these breeding centers have they a chance to procreate. But such a small gene pool. So many still births. They will not survive, as a species, beyond the next few decades. But this one. This is one of our successes. She was born here this year.”

She blinks again.

“I’m one of the last?”

Under this gaze I am transparent. So I shut my eyes in closure of the confession I cannot make.

Like the last unicorn, we (humanity) have chased another into the sea.

Dashing madly in denial, that in black and white photos, we will all one day be.

I hang my head and repeat, heavily,

My final and heartbroken apology.


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