Today's poem is by Kasey Erin Phifer-Byrne

Tamer Lion

I still felt them
weeks after they were gone

spreading my hand
in the dark, reaching—

a mouse sliced
across the cage floor
and my claws

weren't there to hook
the quick body

They were touching
yellow balloons

They were cord-strung
around children's necks
it's called phantom

said the others—they, too
knew what it was
to spend ten nights

on the barge
between shows,
how the canal split

before us, a ripple
of fur tongued clean

a fly running down skin
between ribs

Maybe sometimes
the trainer,
his pronged extension

would croak open
the cage door
and poke toward us

some bit of cow
we would refuse
and he'd return

with pills and stiff hands
working our throats

Maybe, or maybe
it was all phantom

the others said,
and we flexed
our hands, since we know

what it is to scratch
with nails
four weeks gone

to swipe
and not draw blood,
to see it anyway

on the floor,
a burn long after
the fire's out

Copyright © 2015 Kasey Erin Phifer-Byrne All rights reserved
from West Branch
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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