Lions of the Work Week

by Jeramy Dodds

It was the year I subscribed to an absurd
amount of magazines, there were lions everywhere.
Lions at the tambourines, lions in the gate house, lions
up the sleeve of your bible black dress, you could set your watch
by the screams, the shimmy-shackle of claws
on the hardwood floor wore down your ears, ghosts
of lions fathered our kids, lions of the long grass,
Barnum & Bailey types, we knelt at the scimitar scar
on the tamer’s breast as valets brought lions upon lions,
lions going at us with the violence of a clearance sale, my wife
comes home with a lion between her legs, antelope musk
hog-tied in her mouth, bed-lamp bright wounds,
a yoke of tear-jars tingling from her nicked shoulders,
lions cornered in her cranium, the wedding dancers slain,
their scattered organs like gobs of fruit, lions
at the chink in our amour, lions on the owls, lions
like labs, the house pets snapped, lions loaded for bear,
lions at the crypt ledger jotting down kills,
plaster casts of claws above our cancer ward doors, lions
past the curtains of our ribs, pant like whistling arrows,
starved lions, hair painted on their bones,
lions in the yard with kids, lions
at the midnight fridge, chicken on their lips,
lions at the watering hole bullying
for beer money, lions mowing through
the Foot Guard, Beefeaters, Dragoons,
standing in perfect pecking order
at my bedside, waiting for me to snap
the bones of my watch onto my wrist and dress
in their gift of slipper-thin armour.

Notes on the Poem

Jeramy Dodds' "Lions of the Work Week", from his 2009 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted collection "Crabwise to the Hounds", roars, growls, purrs and claws its way into the reader's attention, packed with an almost overwhelming wave of vibrant wordplay. Starting with the comical contention that this torrent of words and images was the result of "the year I subscribed to an absurd amount of magazines" The poem delights and challenges the reader with everything from fractured turns of phrases ("the chink in our amour" reaching across to the "slipper-thin armour" at the end of the poem) to sonic confections such as "your bible black dress" to "scimitar scar" to "perfect pecking order" to myriad combinations of verbs, nouns and adjectives that are varied, textured and surprising. Many phrases and lines are simultaneously startling, yet a joy to roll off the tongue - a standout is: "a yoke of tear-jars tingling from her nicked shoulders" In its accumulation of brimming, rich detail, the poem reveals how pervasive this particular creature and all its related metaphors are in day-to-day life, from figures of speeches to emblems and images. Can you think of other entities that are as ubiquitous, and with which you could so densely pack a poem?

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