. The Lion Who Thought She Was a Zebra a fable East Africa is where this lion’s tale Takes place---a land of rugged plains of grass, Acacia trees with thorns as sharp as nail, And wild beasts of every shape and class: Giraffes and warthogs, elephants, baboons! Egrets and flamingos pinkly clad; Loud hyenas howling hungry tunes--- And Artemis the Lion who was sad. Although a member of the Lion Pride Artemis was anything but proud. Her hunting skills were poor. Although she tried, She barely squeaked a roar---and never loud. She spurned her tawny mane and feline claws. Her catlike tread so shamed her she would whine. Claiming freedom from all lion flaws She fiercely scorned to be called “leonine.” But how she loved the zebras of the plain! Their classy stripes of tasteful black and white. The graceful way they grazed on grass and grain; Their dignity when trotting out of sight. Thus Artemis discerned the shocking truth: No lion she! She had a zebra’s soul! Being forced to hunt had scarred her youth, And only zebra life could make her whole. She rubbed stripes on her back with chalk and mud And left the Pride to find the zebra herd. But when the zebras saw her they feared blood And fled from her en masse without a word! Except for one---a zebra youth named Zeke, Who shamed his herd as slaves to unjust hate. They would not let a peaceful lion speak! Such fear was wrong! Their bias had no weight! So Zeke and other zebra-justice youths Dislodged the leaders of the Zebra Nation. They then declared the falseness of old truths And granted Artemis a dispensation: She would be a zebra like all others. Her lethal claws and fangs no longer mattered. Next Zeke claimed all lions were their brothers And all ideals but Love must now be shattered. To help young Artemis feel right at home The zebras knitted lion manes from hay. They placed them on their heads fixed with a comb, While Artemis was taught to graze and bray. The younger zebras all loved Artemis Who’d learned to sheathe her claws when they embraced. Elders who held back were deemed remiss As zebra-cat distinctions were erased. But soon, the zebra youths lost who they were. Some crouched like cats until their backs were weak. Some tried to hide their black and white striped fur. Some tried to hunt and starved within a week. Rather than confessing his huge blunder Zeke said justice needed one more measure: Although the herd was being torn asunder, The zebras would divulge their greatest treasure: A Secret Place where hunted zebras hide; Where foals are safe, where tracks fade in the mud; A place of refuge from the Lion Pride--- From predators demanding meat and blood. The elders cursed their secret being told! What fools to let a lion know their dealings! Zeke’s response was arrogant and cold. These hateful elders lacked respect for feelings! And then one day a lion charge occurred, The zebras caught up in a deadly race! When Artemis fled with the zebra herd Her lion-scent revealed the Secret Place. The stricken zebras had no chance to win. They’d turned their backs on every skill they knew, Preferring to pretend that cats were kin. Their lunacy now left them in a stew. The aftermath was bloody and perverse. For “Artemis, the Zebra” wasn’t real. Her feline hunger surfaced. Even worse: She joined the lions in their zebra meal! Zeke survived, though shocked---shocked and enraged By Artemis’s treachery! In shame He fled, his hopes for peace left unassuaged, But sure he’d find another cat to tame. That day the lions ate till they were fat Then turned to Artemis and asked her plain: So... was she now a zebra or a cat? With unsheathed claws she combed her splendid mane. “A lion,” she replied with newfound pride, Accepting Nature’s lesson as her view: When shame had ruled her mind, her thoughts had lied. For only fools think all they think is true. . . He Made That Choice a rondeau He made that choice. He couldn’t bear The way he was, his face, his hair. He felt he had to change his life, To flee a selfhood that was rife With shame he couldn’t share. Professionals who didn’t care Spoke words as empty as the air On how to free him from this strife. He made that choice. Now with mirrors everywhere He sits and sobs. Some days he’ll stare. When he allowed the surgeon’s knife They said he’d make the perfect wife, But now he’s trapped in worse despair. She made that choice. . . Brian Yapko is a lawyer who also writes poetry. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.