Peter watches his lion lie
in the bucket where he set it:
first to flare is the tuft
of the beastling's tail-tip, curled
in the pail's cylindrical seam -
its tempo twitch a cub's annoyance
at the chafe of infant constraints.
Peter, too, is impatient.
He coils a smoke-rope tendril
in his lung as his toy's loin
grows tuffs of lemon-lick curls.
As a chesty ember glows and dims
and glows amid the shoddy he smiles
and shifts on his knee, and watches.
The lad claps as a collar of mane
erupts from the neck - a pride
of flames set to stalk and chase
across the dry-weave carpet savannah.
His lion looks up at the sound,
lifts a paw to let the lap
of heat sharpen claws; it pounces
at Peter, struggles to lever
its haunch across the melted rim
of its lair, leaps up to reach
the table hide where the boy
huddles with his matches; when
he proffers a hand to ruffle
the singed fur the toy roars -
a deep rumble that sets a gale
among the bedroom curtains
and drives the angel mobile
to dance on the pins of soot
snowflakes blooming the air;
across Peter's peach-fuzz wrists
a tight new glove knits to skin.