The lion? They had to put it down,
or so was the judgment of counsel, who even
came by to see it, cupped on the floor
of its enclosure in equal communion
with its red medicine ball abandoned in the grass.
The fire in its fur made furious shapes
from which its dark eyes were shielded in its paws.
Its keepers came through the gate as usual,
making the noises it recognized, letting it choose
the pace, to rise and sidle along the false cliffs where kids,
if there had been kids, would get on hands and knees
on the wall to see it, circling the rock it knew
the sun could be tasted on. It asked the keepers
to stroke its back, and they felt the stiff brush of its coat.
It asked them to touch its ears, and they obliged.
Then it walked with them behind its world
to a white plaster room where it became
mathematics, a figure describing itself.
In the words of counsel, “destroyed,”
though in truth, enough remained to be buried,
in truth, so little was taken away
that even its strength seemed to remain, unused,
trapped under that body like groundwater.
Maybe if it had fought, there would have been
no feeling, days later, of being tracked
from the car to the front steps while the dog barks
for all the wrong reasons. Maybe the body
would not have seemed to shudder in the grounds
and ask to be soothed. You cannot say, like me,
I take it all back. See, I draw the liquid out again.