the two lions. Raphael d’Abdon


i have been invited to read a poem about freedom,
but i don’t have a poem about freedom,
all i have is
a story
about two lions

when we were kids
we used to go to a bar
to play videogames and
see the lion

in the backyard
there was a 20 square meters cage
where nick, the owner,
kept a lion called

he fed him with
meat scraps and pasta
but mostly pasta

we sat in silence and
watched toni eating

his claws had been cut off
his teeth were yellow and weak
and he had sad, beautiful, eyes

in 5 years
we never heard him roaring
nor saw him walking

he was always lying down
either dozing off or
staring at some distant
imaginary place

one day we went to the bar
played a few games and waited for nick to
feed toni

but he didn’t

“nick, why are you not feeding toni today?” we asked
“he went back to the savannah” he said

we went to the backyard to check
toni wasn’t there

we never saw him again

in 1992 i came to south africa
a land were a lionized freedom fighter
had just been released
from his cage

when i saw him on tv i thought of
for the first time in 10 years

his broken claws
his fragile teeth,
and his sad, beautiful eyes

and i wondered
how can a lion
that has spent most of his life in a cage
come out from it
still a lion?

how can he find his way in the savannah
if all he has ever known is
a concrete floor and
iron bars?

how can he be able to hunt if
his legs are weary
his claws useless
his teeth falling?

all such a lion can do
– i thought –
is lie down
and wait for his jailer to
feed him with

the old,
south african lion
was clawless and
had harmless teeth
and sad, beautiful eyes

he was
staring at some distant,
imaginary place

and he was blabbering

about a thing he called


or something like that…