Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Lion Ghost

The Lion Ghost

I thought you were
a toy animal
but I was only

Why do you still bother
to come snarling at me in dreams,
belching your fuzzy
last-night's antelope
across my face,
prowling the corridors of 
my stony veins, 
looking for a way 
to tear them open
once again.

That jungle has been razed,
burnt in the change 
of a dying planet,
buried at the black sea bottom,
cindered and sucked dry,
half-arid and half-drowned.

I think of the rubble on wheels,
the broken sharp ungraspable
thing you were, and the rubble
you made of me.
I see the chill soft cheek-
fur dry and peel across
your taxidermied bones,
and your ruff of sunflower mane
unpetal bald and
blow away.

I  see you in your ghost shape now,
a softness as yet unkilned,
a rolling clay plaything
half-baked in the shape of a cat;
your claws are made of painted
sugar, your white fangs
of fraying string.

You thought you knew
which of us was the toy,
which animal, but
my tiny roaring lion, my keepsake,
you were wrong.

~October 2015

Image, Internado Ambulante, by Remedios Varo. Fair use via


  1. Insanely strong! powerful and gripping.

  2. Phew! What an incredible dystopian vision you present here. I feel it quite personally at present, in the midst of a Spring shrivelled by drought, with water shortages in my town and all the good growing things, dying in the earth. Certainly the time of the lion ghost seems to be at hand.

  3. Hey Joy--this is such an interesting intrepid poem, with what was lion, what was toy, changing back and forth--and lion very much like lying--one feels quite sad at the dethroning of the beast here--as his loss of stature does not seem to bring the survival of anything, but only to be a loss--there are particularly vivid moments--the belching of last night's antelope when the lion seems very real to the reduction to the bits of sugar and string (as well as the earlier cheek soft stuffed animal) where he seems very much pretend--I don't quite know why I say he, but he seems a he to me-- I agree with Kerry--one would like to imagine a world in which real lions roam, as scary as they may be--anyway, as always--powerful and vivid work with your keen following through on imagery--k.

  4. Cecil, Cecil, where art yet Cecils! This baedekker through the garden of lost nature is half nostalgia, half solastalgia for me. The cat god shrunk down to an abandoned cat toy in the dream which itself is dessicated, withdrawn, has lost its habitat to human plunder and personal age. The miracle and grace of this is that the dream (or dreamer) rescues nature from childhood; what we keep is not we we kept then.The balance between worlds of personal and human adult and childhood is fierce and supple. Side note, have you heard of the release, finally, of the movie "Roar"? Filmed in 1981 by the producer of "The Exorcist" and starring his wife Tippi Hedron (and her daughter Melanie Griffith). A guy lives contentedly with his beasts -- 110 lions, leopards, jaguars and cheetahs. He's not home when his family comes to visit and all animal hell breaks loose. 70 people were mauled during the filming including Griffith, who took a massive swipe on the face. "Birds" fed to the kitties, indeed. Gotta fear the real ghosts.

    1. I remember Hedron--what a name and of course Griffith and the grisly gross Exorcist, which totally freaked me out, both reading the book and watching the movie--I felt like I needed a bath and a spot of bell book and candle after both. Not heard of 'Roar" though--it sounds very period and nuts--have to see if it's on Netflix. Thanks b, for the read and the comment.

  5. Oh love a duck, stoppittttttttttt already! I turn my back for a few days and you come skittering out, writing rings around the rest of us like this! *sputters incoherently* I thought this was excellent from the first line, but then you tie your reader to a chair, smile like some literary Sly Stallone, and take it to another level POW! Those final two stanzas just left my jaw hanging open. For fug's sake, give the rest of us a chance. This is SO good, one of my all time favorites of yours, instantly.


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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