You ask me to tell you what feeding time was like
so I start by saying how keyed up the big cats were, ready
to pounce on whatever the keepers thrust into their scoops—
the snow leopard shaking his turkey, the clouded leopards
tearing into white chickens, the black jaguar
gobbling his slab of beef. You nod
and say there is something you must tell me
but not yet, we have a meal to share, and once
you’ve told me your news everything will be spoilt.
The home help has prepared venison and an hors d’oeuvre
of foie gras, for dessert there’s petits fours.
What happened next was that the snow leopard
wolfed down his turkey but seemed confused
with his rabbit, pacing back and forth
with it dangling from his jaws, blood trickling
down the long white ears. I show you the video
I took of his performance, my iPhone between us
as he yoyos from one side to the other. But I haven’t
got this right because I filmed this twelve years
after your death, Papa, yet you are still chewing the last mouthful.
You lift the serviette to your lips and wipe them,
glancing at the clock above my head
as I replay the echoey voices inside the Fauverie,
one little girl crying ‘oh le pauvre lapin!’
It’s closing time and as the guard ushers me out
the lights are suddenly switched off.
I’m biting into my sixth petit four as you announce
‘You no longer have a mother.’ There’s
the story to work out of how you know—
the phone call from my brother when he couldn’t reach me at home
and had a hunch I’d be here, my secret three days alone
in Paris before I revealed my arrival.
There’s a reel in my head of a leopard
who doesn’t know what to do with the gift of a rabbit.
Every now and again he interrupts his circuit
and darts his face forward, startled,
then he’s back into the loop, perhaps
needing to bury his bunny for later or
take it somewhere where no one can watch him eat.