The Last Lion in Pennsylvania (Version 2)

This entry is part 3 of 22 in the series Alternate Histories


The last lion in Pennsylvania
was never found.
beetles smuggled her
underground; trees took
her up. Her ears became—
among other things—leaves,
& her roar was reborn in
the tops of tall pines.
She ran in the sap.
But she traveled, too,
into the ravenous
stomachs of the deer,
who were no longer
the wary creatures
she used to stalk.
Through them, she explored
a growing emptiness,
a desert with trees…

(See Version 1.)

The Last Lion in Pennsylvania

First axe then lightning on
a million acres of dry slash:
the state’s namesake forests
burned & burned.
Then flood: with no roots
to hold the rains, hillsides slid,
rivers raged, cellars
filled with ashy gray mud.
The last lion in Pennsylvania
was starving, bones
visible under her hide
when they found her
at the end of a line
of incriminating footprints,
near a rocky outcropping
called the Pinnacle.
The men from the lumber camp
afterwards said she had
been prowling around,
had even stalked one of them
the night before.
Thomas Anson
was the name of the man
who shot her there
beside what they now call
Panther Springs—
though she had not.
He kept pumping bullets
into her crumpled form
to make damn sure.