Sheenagh Pugh’s ‘The Bereavement of the Lion-Keeper’

The Bereavement of the Lion-Keeper
Sheenagh Pugh
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).
Read more about Sheenagh’s Later Selected Poems.
Visit Sheenagh’s website.

8 thoughts on “Sheenagh Pugh’s ‘The Bereavement of the Lion-Keeper’

  1. christine

    This is gorgeous. What a talent, and you have it too, to tell a story yet write poetry. I feel the intimacy between the keeper and the lion.

  2. Jo

    Amazing. The last stanza made me tear up…..the simplicity of it after the powerful descriptions…..fab.

  3. Susan Richardson

    Am looking forward to buying this, Michelle. Recently finished reading ‘Long-Haul Travellers’ – there are several poems therein that I keep going back to…

  4. Sam Rasnake

    “who has heard / the deepest purr in the world” is a stunning thought. I like the poem. Great portrait. Thanks for the post.

  5. Middle Ditch

    It’s beautiful and I’m so pleased the lion died in his sleep (or was it the keeper) either way, to die in your sleep is, I think, the best thing.

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