Old lion

The old lion left his pride behind him
and went out into the night.
It’s hard to live on the high plains:
it takes courage, strength and endurance,
and a love as deep as the hunt is hot.
Yet, now readied, this last time he went,
not rustling the grass, not raising the dust,
not even stirring the air, lighter than light.
And while he should have ranted at it,
chased after it, should have
torn into it and bought it down,
it was he who fell instead,
going quiet and still at the last.
What a terrible silence that was and still is.

It was only later, under the sun,
as we lowered him into his grave,
I realized that I—if no one else—
could still hear him roar.


Jack Etheridge Sr., my father, passed away recently. You may have recalled that last year, about this time, he experienced a heart attack and the family feared to lose him them, an event I captured in the poem Free to Fly. And while, since then, we had the bounty of his presence, at the end he was failing fast and we were glad to let him go; he was just one month shy of his 90th birthday. But do not grieve for the family, please, as we do not grieve for him. His was a life to be celebrated, not a death to be mourned.

While flying to be with my father before he died, I decided that when the time came I was going to text the message, “The old lion has fallen,” to my family and friends, as it seemed to me this would sum up the greatest part of the truth of his passing. The idea stuck with me and en route I started this poem, finishing the first draft on the flight home afterward.

This is the first of (at least) a trilogy of poems about my father’s passing that I will be releasing over the next little while. I hope you enjoy them.

The photograph was taken at Newport, RI at one of the once stately homes of the rich, and now the gawking place of us merely ordinary people.  To see my photography blog, please visit the Book of Bokeh.


Photograph, poem and notes © John Etheridge; all rights reserved. The poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original written work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © John Etheridge, The photograph is not licensed for use in any way without the expressed consent of its creator.


Filed under Poetry

18 responses to “roar

  1. Excellent poem John. Well done. Smiles…>KB

  2. Where did the image of falling come from? He fell to the earth with a loud thump? I imagine a great beast lying down for a long needed rest.

    • The image of falling came from, I guess, the sense of a combatant falling in battle. The ‘fallen hero’ image. Your interpretation is spot on. I will always think of my father as the great, hard working, capable, strong willed and driving force of nature that I knew when he was young and the fact that anything defeated him, even when he was 90, suggested the metaphor to me. 🙂

  3. Beautiful remembrance, John….

  4. Great tribute… Touching and beautifully penned, John. 🌼🌹🌷
    All my best wishes. Aquileana ⭐

  5. Your writing is brillant. I just read “Schizophrenia,” and wanted to comment and tell you how moved I was by it and how hauntingly beautiful it was, but I couldn’t find where to comment.
    I am a admirer of your work and talent.

    • Cindy, thank you so much! You sound as if you too are not unfamiliar with schizophrenia. It is a heartache to love someone who has this disease. If so, I grieve for you too.

      If I may suggest, you may also like to read My hero.

  6. I’m thinking…how grand it is for you to have “power of the poet” to write this eloquent, absolutely not maudlin…highly celebratory elegy, John. Absolutely.

    • Bonnie, as always you are sweet, kind and uplifting, gifts of those who have mastered their art and can bestow their wisdom without fear. Thank you! 🙂

  7. This is a beautiful poem, inspired, honourable. I look forward to following your writing.

  8. Wonderful piece! Piercing … brings me into the presence of an honorable lion, a lion of a man. Your comments tell about the lion, your dad, who is honored and loved. I sense that he was a man who loved well, and honored others. Imagery and transcendence: a roar that you still hear …

    • T, thank you! He really was, in his day, a lion of a man and it was important to me to hold onto this vision as he neared the end…so diminished he was from his strong days. We were lucky to have such a man and celebrate his life and memory. 🙂