Lion sightings; Catskills


How they tell the hush when the mountain lion came out; and after, enchanted


It was at picnics on the front lawn, un-solemn he popped from the forest lane

Across the river and his long long tail question-marked, flippant flipped away

Everyone strained like giraffes


Or it was in the purposefulness before thunder when the forest crouches, steadies

The woodsman fetched wood from the shack, the beast in a sidelong glance

the man sidelong looking, casual then stunned

Only twigs snapping and that was rain


Remember the tail, they tell me; long and springy, too long for his body

You never expect to see a lion, you never go looking for him, he just

shows up with that tail trailing high and twirled, it tells the lion

from the stubby bobcat and the pack coyote who have his tan but not his grace

Such are the visions for the most part, remembered only twenty told and fused in darkness


We need lion-visions, we need the big cat in the woods of the mind

He’s what roads and picnics have left behind

We need the true story too    He came and ate three chickens in the gardens

            of the town of Accord

No one believed when it was told that in the tall grass of the yard

trampling it a little he belly-rolled after the kill

savoring stomach and full stretching his sleek arms

like a day’s end’s sunbather, fleeing not at all

the howling men of the house nor the women beating pans

who having no gun hurled buckets and whatever, a clay pot, a child’s bicycle

Nah, he’d eaten, enjoyed, and across the lazy river swam

for the escarpment inaccessible to man.


                                                                                                -Christopher Ketcham