April 21, 2010

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
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