—Idaho, 1995

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.

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