Waiting for the Lions to Stop Texting Their Ex-Girlfriends
gaping at the faux habitat of rain-watered
rolling grassland aglow with boring
tenderness—the leisurely saunter of quivering manes,
sweetly interlocked paws, flirtatious nuzzles
against shimmering fur licked-smooth, while
remains reclusive, the one hidden in the shade
of the out-of-place oak tree, head downcast
and paws clasped, turned up, creating a secret
atmosphere enclosed by his matted mane.
It's obvious what he's doing, no need to keep
it private: he's texting his ex-girlfriend,
the quiet lioness against the boulder
opposite him, the small curve
of her back turned against the crowd,
her meek serpentine head occasionally peeking
around the dust specked clay
toward her ex-lover, the one who
nuzzled up on the wrong girl the other day.
They all look the same, I don't blame him,
but I know he beats himself up nonetheless,
I know he wants her back.
You forgive me, right? You know you're the only one for me.
He has her now, she is
the gazelle in his vice grip, neck
snapped and vulnerable—he's
cracking her insecurities with every text,
apology shimmering in his
occasional sideways gaze, rolling
over his sharpened teeth,
and by the time I return from the
Johne's (pronounced "yo knees")
infested petting zoo with a six-dollar
4-ounce bag of cotton candy,
he has convinced her to forgive him—her
shy eyelid flutter proves it—
You know I love you. I always will. Just you and me, right?
Sickeningly sentimental—no woman
can resist a promise. Fickle emotions
aside, this is how he keeps her his prey,
this is how instincts break his conditioned
teeth and control his devious game. But now he has
to move the subject away, to lead her mind
to clasp onto something meaningless
that showcases the new him—
no, not the frat-boy complex he used to
sport with jokes by the watering hole, punk rock,
pecs popping underneath his button-down—the
unusually complex, thought-provoking
him, the smooth-talking
beast he must be. Struck
with mindless inspiration, his paw
wavers over the touch screen, then
So, what do you think about extinction? Pretty terrible, huh?
Extinction? This is where the drama ends—
she accepts his fraudulent intellectualism and
gloats to all the other lionesses, while in reality
she lives her life sleeping next to a
stranger—it all gets generic from here, yet
they persist in discussing extinction?
These animals sun-bathe in their
enclosure as if polar bears aren't hugging
a chunk of bobbing ice for the warmth of cold,
as if the carrier pigeon isn't a ghost—
eyelids still stitched and oozing,
feet broken and tied to the stump
where comrades are ensnared in the
choking bind of net.
They mock their haven when life for them is freedom
tucked away by a fence, for them, it must be safety, the
privacy of interconnected souls, the taming of anxious teeth,
impatient wilderness, the humanizing of skin-ripping instincts.
Isn't this the privilege of captivity? Or do I have it wrong?
If they had the chance, would they tell me they want
to be released back into chaos, to spatter the
blood of their weaker comrades across the food chain, to
dominate The Circle?
Would they tell me that freedom in routine meals
and hand-crafted survival is like pissing
in your own cereal?
Is life for them here a Hemingway
short story? Nada, nada y pues nada?
All I know in Spanish is that nada means nothing, cuativerio means captivity,
leon means lion, and telefono celular means cell phone,
which they better put down long enough to
hop through flaming hoops and
scream to the skin-ripping crackle of the whip for
my entertainment, uncharacteristic of a zoo or not,
anything to get my 22 dollars worth—
so get off your phones.