“Lion in Suburbia” by Alyce Miller

Alyce Miller


They spotted him one early gray morning
placidly seated by the children’s swingset,
over-sized marzipan cat,
like a child’s stuffed toy abandoned to the dew—

(Pathera leo, you with ratty mane and skeptical look,
briefly free of the torments that brought you here,
what compromises have you been asked to make,
while imagining a world where God shuts not the lion’s mouth.)—

What amazed them all was how still he sat—
like a statue!—is he real?—motionless predator
balanced against the backdrop of swings,
shell-shocked yellow eyes

staring down a newly-mown suburban lawn.
Roar for us! the children howled,
safely beating on glass panes.
Come away, children, come away from the windows.

We have to call someone, they said.
We must alert the authorities.
Yet they too were perplexed and transfixed
by the frayed version of mythic grandeur.

And later when the lion was surrounded and shot dead,
the spectacle of his limp yellow body
splayed in final retreat,
the children ran out in search of paw prints,

claimed remnants of the tufted tail.
They traced the flattened grass for souvenirs of fierceness,
ran roaring circles pretending to be lions too.
One child gleefully recalled the lion’s loamy eye

holding the light, like this! like this!
the proof of his terrible danger.

from Rattle #23, Summer 2005
Tribute to Lawyer Poets


Alyce Miller: “Poetry offers a natural way to both talk to and about nonhuman animals. Thousands of lions and tigers live in captivity in the United States, many in private hands, often kept as backyard or basement ‘pets,’ or displayed in roadside zoos or photo booths. When they stop being ‘cute cubs,’ they are frequently subjected to acts of unspeakable cruelty, and their plight is profound. At a local animal rescue sanctuary, I met several rescued lions whose initially placid demeanor forms the deception that can make big cats so appealing. But no matter how many poems I recite to them as they lounge and stroll lazily in the sun, when these powerful, perfectly built predators turn to look me in the face, they see prey. Their real beauty is their wildness.” (web)

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