Photo by Marcy Saldivar

Written by Marcy Saldivar |

2 feet in front of me—

No cage or glass between—

Stood Abeke, an epic lion.

And there I stood, 


Her coarse fur was stained matte gold. 

And I saw deep amber eyes undisturbed by my presence.

She looked painted, 

And polished with dark, bold eyeliner.

Her jaw cranked open,

Letting out an exhausted sigh.

Her fangs—7 inches sharp,

Pierced the air.

And onyx lips framed the weapons. 

Then, her tongue,

Studded with fibrous taste buds,

Flicked out of her mouth and smacked her upper lip.

She was unconcerned.

Real. Docile.


I stood for a photo with my back to her.

A fleeting rustle made me jump forward,

And turn around

To make sure she was laying where I left her.

She was.

To think:

She could pounce on me,

Vulnerable and naïve,

Sink her fangs into my skin,

And wreak havoc. 10 seconds is all she needed.

But she knew better.

For her every move was controlled by a wooden stick.

Her masters would

Beat her,

Scare her,

Starve her.

Since she was a cub,

She was conditioned

To obey humans and

Fear the wooden stick.

Her innate instincts flushed out. 

Submissiveness remained.

Abeke was stripped of her life

For me.

Who am I

To travel 14 hours on a jet,

From a white picket fence and plush lawn,

Across the North Atlantic,

To feed an industry that capitalizes on

Endangered lions? 


That industry feeds a family, too.

Abeke’s master, Mamadu, bought his 7-year-old daughter

Beans and fish with my dollar.

Why does the welfare of a family

Rely on animal exploitation?

My knuckles were white, 

From holding my walking stick so tightly.

But, with it in my hands,

I conquered Abeke.

I had an undeserving and unnatural mightiness over her.

A privilege granted by abuse.

A paradoxical power dynamic.

And part of me wanted her to flip the switch.

Teach the humans a lesson.

Take back her authority and danger.

To have a shred of animalistic