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The Last Peaceable Kingdom

(painted by Edward Hicks in 1849)

for Don and Jane

By recreating his beautiful animal dream he was able to forget the
elusiveness of his ideal in the world, to erase his despair. If individ-
ual men could not transcend their weaknesses and live happily to-
gether, the animals he imagined could.

— “Animals in American Art: Edward Hicks”

Mostly they recall nothing. The bear just
nudges the cow and feels foolish
to be wearing claws and the young lion
continues on his way with the child. Still
there are times the leopard remembers.
Behind his tranquil eyes he sees
himself running somewhere out of his body.
And there are times the world lifting his fine
brown head can hear a scream
that seems to come from his own throat. Yet
it is quiet here and in the light
beyond them Penn rises with Indians
as if he were their thought. Nearby the ox
the old lion forgets that he is doomed
to browse the luminous hay forever.

-Wesley McNair