His first thought might have been heat
but the season was wrong despite the wildness
in her eyes. Still, she paced, closer each time,
the cubs out of sight, her twitching tail an electric
surprise, enough to rouse any king from half-sleep.
Then again, how simple the mind of men and kings.
In less than a blink she has him pinned on his back,
paws on his throat, teeth at his neck. He tries rolling
her off, clubbing her head but her paws press too hard,
her teeth dig deeper, the competing roars ignite a hellish
choir of shrieks and screams, zookeepers racing from
every corner but helpless to short circuit what instinct
has commanded. Within minutes, all is quiet,
order restored, the king is dead. Not bled to death
but choked to death, the work of a master killer.
Yet, what to make of this?
In eight years, not a scratch nor squabble,
their lives together comfortable and well fed,
no muddy stream of human dreams or regrets.
And look now, the cubs, creeping back to their
mother’s side; a passing glance at their father’s
empty shell, no longer strangers to the wild.

(first published in POEM)