Irwin Allen vs. the Lion Tamer


by Jennifer L. Knox

We used to love lion tamers because people really didn’t know
who would win in a battle of man versus nature. Back then
all the stories ended in death, our death, by mauling or snake bite
or dog bite or being struck by lightning, smothered by an avalanche,
charged off a cliff, carried away in the talons of an eagle, inhaled
by a whale, stung by a scorpion, swarmed by killer bees, gored
by a rhino, poisoned by berries, pricked by a sticker, swallowed
by quicksand, beguiled by a black cat, gobbled by a witch…

So imagine the relief: with one flick of the whip and an “Up!”
the skulking lion stands on legs like a human. Its toothy protest,
no big thing. After all those years of fear, I’d laugh at it, too,
and that’s what people did till there were no more lions
to laugh at, but Irwin Allen knew death doesn’t live in a thing
you can kill with a gun. It’s not the heat—it’s the hubris. The fire
that wipes the city out begins in birthday candles and the happy
huff behind them. The storm that flips the cruise ship starts
in the sea that rises up to fill the empty sky. An airplane crash
begins not in birds, but in the feeders we’ve stolen the seed from,
certain nobody can see us.

About the Author:

Jennifer L. Knox is the author of Days of Shame and Failure, published by Bloof Books in 2015. Her first three books of poems are also available on Bloof: The Mystery of the Hidden Driveway, Drunk by Noon and A Gringo Like Me. Her poems have appeared in the Best American Poetry series as well as the anthologies Great American Prose Poems, From Poe to Present and Best American Erotic Poems. Her work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, McSweeney’s, and BombShe currently teaches at Iowa State University and is the proprietor of a little company called Saltlickers.