Poetry: If a Lion Could Speak, We Couldn’t Understand Him by Margaret Ray

The truth of the apocalypse is that our language will die with us—what if words, this dark future asks, are neither immortal nor inevitable? Margaret Ray here explores the edges of this question with both the awe and fear that the “wild” being wild inspires.


If a Lion Could Speak, We Couldn’t Understand Him

World: even when we think we’ve got it tamed, something:
a hoard of bees on a hot dog stand swarms
so thick the police rope off Times Square at mid-day!
(resist the temptation, here, to say “the bees want”–
let wild be wild). It isn’t less and less,
it’s not decay. The smell of hot dogs
in the humid heat. What does a segmented body
know? What it wants? No,
wants​ is the wrong word. There isn’t
a right one. These intrusions,
what do we want them to tell us? ​Tell
is the wrong word. More often it’s dead
deer by the side of the highway, full-
grown mammals flinging themselves
into our paths, our way. What is it
that visits us at night, on darkened wings?
Sing​ is just our word for life as sound,
unbowed. I’m the person
who finds comfort in those images
in post-apocalyptic movies:
vine-obscured traffic lights, tall
grasses billowing in the intersection
of Lexington and 54th. Time
and moss can crumble a building. Coyotes
on Hollywood Boulevard. When we’re gone,
think how the insects will sing.




Margaret Ray

Margaret Ray grew up in Gainesville, Florida. She is currently a poetry MFA student at Warren Wilson. Previously, she has been a contributor at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference and the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in FIELD, Gettysburg Review, Rattle, American Literary Review, Habitat, and Mortar Magazine. She teaches in New Jersey. https://www.margaretbray.com/

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