“17 Reasons Why I Did It” The MGM Grand Lion Speaks
after Roger Bonair-Agard’s All Black Penguin Series

SHOCKING amateur footage has emerged of a lion attacking its trainer at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The honeymooning Montana couple who filmed the attack, Titus and Drew Ellis, have told of their horror. Mr. Ellis said: “We weren’t expecting it at all. It just all happened so quick, you know. All of a sudden he was on top of him, and you could tell it wasn’t a playful jump.” - Sept. 9, 2010

The MGM statement says that “the lions do not live at the hotel. They are provided by Keith Evans, a contracted animal expert, and housed at an off-site facility. The animals are displayed on rotating shifts at the habitat.”

1. Um. I’m a fucking Lion.

2. I was raised in captivity.

3. Again, I’m a fucking lion.

4. I was hungry and a little tired of that processed ground chuck, and those limp carcasses they feed us.

5. I’m a hunter. I stalk prey.

6. I got big teeth, razor sharp claws, and a jaw that can crack bones in seconds.

7. We had a bet going among the pride on how long would it take for those fools to get comfortable enough to drop their guard. Hey! It is Vegas!

8. The Lion King was some bullshit. Sorry, I had to get that off my chest.

9. He looked delicious. Those tan shorts. Meaty thighs. Like a hairless Gazelle. Not nearly as fast. No brainer.

10. I don’t condone what those white tigers did to Roy. Seeing Sigfried all upset like that was deplorable. But… I understand.

11. I was pissed. It’s all glass windows and gawking eyes. I only have enough room to pace. How majestic can I look trapped within four walls?

12. He thought my purr meant surrender.

13. My cubs would have looked at me differently if I hadn’t.

14. Try making love in front of a crowd. Not a good look.

15. I really thought I was on the Serengeti plain.

16. What do you expect when you enslave Africans?

17. I was a king once.


Is this 92 or 93?
When I find myself in Mom’s
sleek sliver gelatin colored 88’ 626
parked in shadows
just outside the lime green halo
of the school parking lot’s
lone long necked streetlight

Seats reclined
Windows cracked
traced with rising fog.
Her mouth has my left ear.
Sade has my right.
If its Sade, this means its 92’.
This means its Fall.

This means the fog matters.

We left the movie early;
Coppola’s bloody Dracula
was a peripheral sideshow
once our fingers soft pretzeled
in the dark.

Left the crowd in the theatre;
in the mall;
and hissed into
the car’s quiet seats
to finish off our sodas
and sourpatch kids that did not
curb our cravings for sweet.

But what kind of fire
do you know of
that can be quenched
in a sixteen-year-old
once they get a taste
outside of innocence’s
sippy cup?

Take you home?

Was more a plea
than a question.
An open gate
with groaning hinges.

She only answered
when we neared the turn
to her neighborhood.

Put her hand on top
of mine and guided the wheel

to the school

to the parking lot

past the halo

the shadow.

Love Deluxe
Sade’s 90’s opus
in the tape deck

45 minutes total
22 and a half minutes
each side.

Tape deck.

This is 92’.

Half hour till curfew
before her Mom gets home
before mine calls the cavalry.

This is 92’

The year before I
learn that Love and Lust
constantly side-eye
each other.

But I haven’t learned
this difference yet.

This is the first time
my hands read the length
of a girl’s body.

I swear the whole world could feel my heart beat

My mouth finds
her shoulders
her mouth
her neck

My fevered
fingers trying to
jimmy open her
bra from the back
when she opens
it from the front
with a flick.


This is 92’.
The first time
I see a smile
in the dark.

You wrapped me up in the color of love

And Sade has
just finished
her entire album
for the second time.

And the cassette player

And the dashboard clock
winks 12:00am as
we keep looping.

This is 92’

after Yusef Komunyakaa and verdict after verdict after verdict after verdict.

“St. Augustine said, ‘An unjust law is no law at all,’ which means l have a right, even a duty, to resist... with violence or civil disobedience. You should pray l choose the latter.” - James Farmer Jr, The Great Debators

Thanks for the story
Nikki Giovanni told at a reading
about the Sleeping Car porters
who kept black children safe
and alive on the trains to
and from the south.
I don’t know why
but someone
always steered me safely
to my destination.

Thanks for my 6th grade
Bus driver with the jheri curl
who saved me from
the storm of teeth and
fur that bolted unleashed
from a neighbor’s yard.

Somehow he knew
and timed the horn
just right and scattered
that six pack of pits
back across the
screaming yellow median.

Thanks for trusty
Stride Rites and a
neighbor home
early who
spooked the truckload
of white boys
looking for a reason to
hurt and curse
my nine year old frame.
They made to jump
from the cab and grab me.
I never ran so fast
or hoisted my bike
so quickly when
my neighbor’s Hey
made them pause.

Thank you’s to
whatever gods
I called by name
each time the
blue and whites
strobed past my
anxious face
down the freeway
or when searchlights
held my gaze, but
passed on.

What made my mug
not fit the APB
I’ll never know,
but every night
I’d see versions of
me curbside
pockets emptied
of contents and
car doors flung
open wide like
crying beaks.

Again, thank you
for my fingers
more nervous
fumbling with Desert Eagles
frat brothers wanted
me to hold,
than with pens, spoons,
forks, measuring cups.

I don’t know why
but every time the
urge to fill my hand
with muzzle and trigger
percolated within my blood
it was filled with other
means of heat.

Thank you for
making me miss
a stampede at
a ballgame
when gunshots
starter pistoled
a ripple of chaos through
the crowd.

I was moping
in an empty hallway
trying to shake off
rejection from the
flyest girl in 10th grade.

Thank you for the
boys I know
who lived and
in their late thirties
talk of cheating Death’s
emissaries; standard
chokeholds, check points,
scuffed shoes, cutbacks,
and gutless neighborhood

I still tremor with rage when
I think of the bouncer
who mushed my face
with a gloved hand
after I refused
take off my tam
so he could search
my locs.

Maybe it is better
that he could not
reach me
when I called him
a bird-chested bitch
from within a sea
of black men.

Maybe it is better
that I could not reach him.

All I know is that those
hands held me close
and steered me safely
to my destination
moving only when I moved.

Derrick Weston Brown is the founding Poet-In-Residence of Busboys and Poets and teaches Creative Writing to high school students in D.C. He is a graduate of the Cave Canem Summer and VONA Summer workshops.

:: more from this issue ::

Four Poems

Tania Nwachukwu

Two Poems

Amber Atiya

Rage in Color

A. Montgomery


Abdul Ali

Three Poems

Hanif Abdurraqib

Letter Twelve

Ekere Tallie

Three Poems

Rachel Long

Re: Surrender

Yona Harvey


Jacinta White

Three Poems

Derrick Weston Brown


Cheyenne Varner

Is It Sweet?

Athena Dixon