The schoolyard lion
The horses keep crisscrossing the pen. They stamp
their feet and glance to the edge of the woods.
Muscles twitch in their soft gleaming wrappers.
Seven-millimeter Magnum follows
out from the line of their necks. Ready. Aim.
Fabrication. In one witness account,
the lion waits at the edge of the woods, alive.
Mouse skulls bang around big cat’s stomach like empties
on a car floor. A stone’s throw north, Lava
Hot Springs Elementary cancels recess.
Under the clutch, skull gets stuck; lion stalls out,
sits down at the edge of the woods. Then steps
toward the horses. Hold up. Hold up. Ligertown
owners say different: The horses got spooked
because a lion, shot at the compound
two days before and then stored in a walk-
in freezer, was dragged to the edge of the woods
by the Lions’ Club to scare up cash for slick
new fences for the school. Rigor mortis wouldn’t
have been so, so something. What a story.
What’s a given: nervous ponies, a gunshot wound.
Now silt and stains are up in the upholstery.
At the edge of the woods, a body rusts.
What’s up for grabs: a gun called Grand Finale
riding in my boss’s passenger seat, backwoods
Tennessee, a different VIN number—
Wait. But before that, I rode shotgun once
to a Lions’ Club Meeting in Kingston
to recruit foster parents, but Lions, they
looked to be ninety. Still, we sang the Order’s
song, chewed the fat with Lion Avery,
Lion Jim, and then laughed back to Knoxville.
My boss shouted, “That was a hoot!” This scene,
somehow, I get all “Boy howdy.” Locked
inside, the 4th graders chant, “Borrr—rring.”
They stretch their sweaters’ sleeves and push their knee
socks down. Their poly-blend brocade, they rip.
Who’s supervising this disorder?
Let’s have what’s at the edge of the woods in
as a substitute. Oh no, no, Darlin’,
we don’t want no truck with that. This diction
covers up what? That all these stories’ skins
are broken. Must be something jagged in
the mechanism, but Grand Finale
gleams like a well-brushed flank in a fast pant.
Antsy. What’s up? Don’t like this next version:
My boss drove to his ex-girlfriend’s and shot
himself in his Jeep Cherokee, forest-green.
He made her watch that something wanted out,
a different animal that’s wiping
its hands on its jeans. It’s walking away. Don’t
whistle it back. Don’t hardly breathe. It won’t
be haltered, this thing. These woods—Run on home. Git
on home. Hurry—they will not answer
to any of my dressed alternatives.