Written during a workshop, but the suggestion was not recorded at the time.
by Ingrid Leonard
Riding on the back of the lion I am fast,
I cling onto his soft mane and brace myself
as his muscles bunch, saliva forms in his mouth
and he lets out a low, feral growl. His habits are poetic,
he is crepuscular; together we witness the purple tone of twilight,
the yellow of daybreak clings to his coat, seeps into the underbelly of his fur.
The earliest humans traced his form in paintings on cave walls,
with chisels and red ochre, rough wheels will allow
for a fraction of the lion’s speed in the millennia to follow.
Blood would sustain him, but he saw the white cotton-ball
of the antelope’s tail and sprang a split-second too soon.
He knows too that my blood would carry him
through day-night-dawn and beyond,
I am the douce bleet of the young wildebeest
and the crack of the hunter’s gun. I am his undoing.
My thighs hold to his supple spine, he cannot shake me off,
I am too strong. I open my mouth wide and breathe in
and the vast plain, with its dust and muscles,
the sweet racing and grazing of the savannah with its stripes,
hooves and claws, its water and long grass, the sun and moon
and its pink-purple skies, they all of them bend and curve
into a tornado which I inhale and swallow in one gulp and feel young
as it spreads out to the ends of my arms and legs,
like life to the branches of a tree.
Only the lion resists, clinging on to the greyness that is left
but there is nothing here for him anymore, all that sustains him
now lives in me. He turns and glares at me, swift, cat-like
and leaps into my mouth, chasing all that he knew.
I close my mouth and stand tall and I feel the sun
of the savannah and the strength of the lion twitch and spike
in my veins, as his low hunting growl thrums an echo
through the walls of my body, his cage.