The Poetry of Mary K O'Melveny



What does the sound of thirty-three Lions

landing at Oliver Tambo Airport

do to the rhythm of the universe?

Does it throw it off a millisecond

or so?  A vibrant vibrato shaping

our future timing?  Perhaps

it radiates out like sounds of Saturn

reaching out past its Rings.


I imagine a reverberation.

Roars pulse in our ears.  Drumbeats

celebrate sudden space

where all was once small cages.

(We were once deafened by four Lions

on a Zambian preserve, air rich

with aftermath of a Rumble.

Licking their wounds, tails bristling.

Fight over.  Lady in waiting gone.)


The metal crates are hoisted down.

Dubious workers in overalls

peer in, eyes bright, stance guarded.

What must they all think of each other?

Lions, used to limitations

and disappointments, waking up

from drugs and fear, have a thing or two

to say.  Handlers just want it all to go well.


Soon, they arrive at Savannah grasses.  

This wildness is new to them.

Stepping out of their containers,

they hear their own music, round and full,

anger on the borders for those who broke their teeth,

took their claws.  Bellowing now, they call,

cry, howl, holler, thunder, wail

way, way out past the Moon.








*On May 2, 2016, 33 Lions landed at Oliver Tambo Airport in Johannesburg,   South Africa.  They were rescued from South American zoos where they had been raised, displayed in captivity for most of their lives and subjected to abuse and cruelty.  They were rescued by the Animal Defenders Sanctuary, an international animal rights rescue organization.  The Lions will live the balance of their lives in an animal sanctuary.

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