Nemean Lion

juliette givhan


In the dream we were lions—


big & gold & cat

bloody mouthed & sun drunk

on savannah grass—

long before the triangle trade

skinned us

before whip wheels &

sugar cane plantation amputations

left marks on our bodies

that would never disappear.


In the dream we were lions

with the heads of women—

dangerous & beautiful

bringers of death,

tongues riddled with a magic

century thick & strong enough

to devour men too stupid

to know when to run.


Lions before Herakles & violence,

when impervious

was more than just a word

& harm wore the face

of a man.


We were lions

before fire & whip

& leaps through hoops—

as if we weren’t already burning.


In the dream we were lions

& I was much louder then.




Juliette Givhan is a Black poet who writes about myths and memes. Her work appears in ANMLY Magazine, Change Seven Magazine, Two Hawks Quarterly, with forthcoming poems in Pidgeonholes Magazine and baest Journal.