The Inexorable Lion
We’d descend the steep incline
At the end of Westerly Drive,
For the savage realm below.
We’d labor through trees and brush,
My three sons,
Eyes wide with anticipation,
Tribal patriarch, chief of hunters,
Filled with manly vigor.
We’d ford the nameless brook
That flows to Canadaway
(a raging torrent to children’s eyes),
Infiltrate the orderly labyrinth
Of McPherson’s tangled grapevines,
(a jungle in deepest Africa)
To reach the vacant lot beyond
(The plains of Serengeti)
And hunt the mighty lion.
For spears we’d pluck up stalks
Of tall thick grass,
Stealthily track the dreaded prey,
We were dauntless, heroic, bold.
One would spot the hunted hunter,
The predator turned prey,
Fit finger to lip to signal silence,
Point his lance toward our quarry.
We’d steal yet closer,
holding our breaths,
I’d hurl my spear and cry “Simba, eh!”
My sons would heave their javelins,
Savagely whooping, heels churning dust.
We alone could see the beast.
We alone could hear his roar.
We alone could smell his stinking breath.
Now my sons have journeyed far,
By land and sea and air.
Now they chase their own wild beasts,
Founding tribes their own.
Diminished in strength, a wizened elder,
No longer dare invade
Those fertile fields below,
No longer stalk the lion.
Yet he still lurks there,
In his lair,
Heart of darkness,
Land of snares,
Tawny mane and yellow fang,
Evil breath of carnivore.
And he remembers, yes,
He remembers how
we stalked him.
He grows stronger every year,
His hunger grows apace.
He often slinks through tall grass,
Drawing near, much too near,
Sniffs the air to catch my scent,
Notes the absence of my warriors,
Knows my throwing arm grows weak…
Then he turns to yawn and doze.
But he will rouse himself one day,
And he will come for me.
Clark Zlotchew has published an award-winning short-story collection (2011) and has had newer short fiction published in 2016 by e-magazines. He is relatively new to poetry, but two of his poems were published in The Fictional Café in December 2016 and 5 poems appeared in Baily’s Beads, literary magazine of U. of Pittsburgh, on January 25, 2017. His story “Man of Adventure” was one the winners in the 2017 Baily’s Beads contest and was published in the same issue of that print magazine. Zlotchew is a recent emeritus professor of literature in Spanish language with SUNY. He and his wife Marilyn live in rural Western N.Y. State.