“Cento” by Swift; August 2023

I dreamt of absolution one night. A deep sleep’s vindicating fantasy of breaking the shackles that humanity locks. A human cannot do what a hawk can — not physically, not spiritually. Of course a human cannot fly. But a human also cannot hunt. It cannot kill. It cannot yield to the animal urge within. It cannot truly be free. It must confine its deepest urges — those urges everyone has. That’s what I always thought, at least. I thought that because I thought I was human.

I soared above the dusky orange desert landscape. I had a purpose in this dream, I knew, and somewhere to be, but I couldn’t see any necessity with the sun in my eyes. In some ways I knew this was a dream, and that my being a bird was not my waking state. It was an opportunity. I had longed to hunt my whole life. Was I really going to ignore this chance?

I saw a large grey rodent below. Upon waking up I researched and found out it was probably a California ground squirrel, the southernmost extent of which just barely overlaps with the range of Harris’s hawks. But in my dream I was just an animal, and my prey was just an animal too. I can never replicate the feeling of catching it, this I know. But it was like liberation. Even in my dream animal brain, I knew this was something I had wanted through my whole life — a fantasy that aches the way one only can when you know it can never come to pass. The images were detailed. My beak was a part of my body. Clumps of fur thrown to the side. Grey and scarlet. My senses are often vivid in my dreams. The sense of taste is no exception.

I woke up feeling like my human form, my vestibular sense, and my mundane life were mirrored 180 degrees in Photoshop.

I dreamt of absolution one night. A sleepless night’s vindicating fantasy of breaking the shackles that humanity locks. A human cannot do what a wolverine can.

We had been moving furniture from a storage unit to the new house all night and I was exhausted. Then the shift. Suddenly I was alert and so intense. Deer were out and about in the fading light. Images flashed in my head of chasing after them and bringing them down in the woods — tearing into them. I was almost feverish. I could feel their hot flesh, bones of the neck snapping in my teeth, so brilliantly, redly vivid in my head like it was a waking dream. My temples were pounding. I stopped being able to follow the conversation. I had stopped understanding spoken human language. I stood in the grass and stared into the dark treeline. I had sharp teeth and tearing claws and I wanted to use them. To submit to the animal drive. To disappear into the green and black and song of the night, that rising swirl of music and color and scent that whirls and shapes together in the mind into one sublime chromasonic painting.

I awoke by falling asleep, letting the wolverine disappear into the whispering light of the sturgeon supermoon. I had no dreams that night. Only silent dark.

A human cannot yield to the animal within. It does not need to. It has none. But I am not human. I do need to. I do not have an animal deep inside that wants: I am the animal, I am the thing who wants, I am the beast who must confine itself. When I was younger I felt grotesque. I was too many species, none of them Homo sapiens. I didn’t know how it was possible, only that it had to be. I felt like Mary Shelley’s classic monster. I read books about mice, and rabbits, and bats, and they all told me I was a hideous thing for the urges I had — that predators like me were evil. Not simply bowing to the blueprint that evolution wrote in their DNA. And I knew that’s what I was. Before I knew anything else, before I knew the word therian, before I knew that sometimes something that appears human on the outside can be something else internally, I knew I was a carnivore.

We realize what we are when we’re young, don’t we? We can tell we’re not human. We see the way we’re talked about in the children’s books we read. We know we’re not human because we internalize it. We feel hurt by it. And we cannot explain why. We don’t have the language. I didn’t know there were others — I thought it was just me. I said I was “part animal.” I tried to explain how many animals I was. When I got too old to play pretend, I got quiet. I knew I wasn’t supposed to talk about it, but it couldn’t stop me from feeling it.

When I was younger I felt alone and I felt broken. Broken into too many pieces. Now things are different.

I soar above the dusky orange desert. I stalk through snow-laden pines. I dive into turbulent water. I swoop through ocean currents. I am the inconstant of form. I am the sharp of tooth. I am the keen of eye. I am the hunters. I am the monster named Cento. I am the creature known as Many.