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Poem for Pumas


A mighty will stands paralyzed

Rainier Maria Rilke, “The Panther”

Mountain lions, carved in stone, prowl the mountain West.
Hewn by romantics, cat-lovers, hunters, and those
who never have seen one at all, they bide their time,
standing in for all the hurts great cats have known.

In Sinclair, Wyoming, four sandstone panthers hold up
a fountain stem, spew water into the bowl below.
In Colorado Springs, a pack of pumas guards a flagpole,
never batting an eyelash, or the banner overhead.

In Bellingham, one fat catamount howls on the lap
of a fat, howling man. They howl for all the lions gone,
howl for the bounties that he was paid, howl for the hell of it.
Hearing the howls in their bones of stone, all the pumas stretch –
and spring.

—Robert Michael Pyle

This poem originally appeared in Chinook and Chanterelle
Lost Horse Press, Sandpoint, Idaho

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