Androcles And The Lion

“The Bear Cave”, “The Fish And I Discuss Suicide” and “Androcles And The Lion, A Eulogy”

In Poetry by Emma Johnson-Rivard

The Bear Cave

As a child of five, she built a cave in her mind
and lined it with clay, then
stuck feathers to the wall
as a gift to the bear
who slept there at night
A year later she added windows with special class
so only she could look in.

The cave grew and
she filled it with pillows, then books and
read Don Quixote while the bear drank honey
out of a fine silver cup

Even now, I
remember my cave and the bear with her cup
more than once I dreamt about feeding her lemons, she
did not mind the taste, and claimed
it made the honey sweeter

All this is a metaphor
and for all I dreamt of caves
I did not read Cervantes
until I was long past grown

The bear snores. I feed her another lemon.
I will read Hughes now.


The Fish And I Discuss Suicide

Beyond the cup you were born and
sold in, little fish
and the ten dollars it took
to bring you up the stairs
You exist here, little fish
because of that thing I did
last fall
and also because
I failed chemistry in high school
and do not understand the words
on my pill bottles

It is very easy to get things wrong,
little fish
Even if you don’t mean to

It has been decided that you
(betta splendus)
will live under the bed
Don’t worry, I read
two books, they said
you like warm water and stimuli, so
I have built you a machine that filters your water
and makes the bubbles dance
there is a mirror hanging from the bedspring
for you to fight
and a lamp across the floor, I would not
leave you in the dark

You must be fed precisely at dawn
and you will bite my fingers twice
each time.
This is your purpose, little fish
Not the biting but the thing
beyond the biting.
Without me you will die.

We with our patterns
will wake up again
at dawn and not dream
of the water that runs so slow
under stone bridges


Androcles And The Lion, A Eulogy

The problem with this fable is that I’m afraid of lions
and Androcles was still a slave when he left the ring

In some versions the lion eats him anyway
licks righteous blood from his paws and says
It is but my nature, love
I cannot be blamed

Even the voice that killed Abraham’s reason wouldn’t judge a lion
and I am the eternal atheist in this story
however it is told

This is my truth, love.
Save the lion
ease his pain
and he’ll grant you comfort
when the empires throw you to the ring

In the dust you will not die alone
The lion lays his bleeding paw upon your brow
and in this you are not baptized but remembered
The lion says
I will kill them in your name, small
thing
And that is my fable

For your kindness you are avenged
eternally

My love, they do not win

About the Author

Emma Johnson-Rivard

Emma Johnson-Rivard is a Masters student at Hamline University. She received her undergraduate degree in Film Studies at Smith College in Massachusetts and currently lives in Minnesota with her dogs and far too many books. Her work has appeared in Mistake House, the Olive Press, and the Moon City Press