The Bereavement of the Lion-Keeper
for Sheraq Omar
Who stayed, long after his pay stopped,
in the zoo with no visitors,
just keepers and captives, moth-eaten,
growing old together.
Who begged for meat in the market-place
as times grew hungrier,
and cut it up small to feed him,
since his teeth were gone.
Who could stroke his head, who knew
how it felt to plunge fingers
into rough glowing fur, who has heard
the deepest purr in the world.
Who curled close to him, wrapped in his warmth,
his pungent scent, as the bombs fell,
who has seen him asleep so often,
but never like this.
Who knew that elderly lions
were not immortal, that it was bound
to happen, that he died peacefully,
in the course of nature,
but who knows no way to let go
of love, to walk out of sunlight,
to be an old man in a city
without a lion.
from Later Selected Poems (Seren, 2009).
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