Stockholm’s Lions Don’t Sleep

A concrete lion in Stockholm, Sweden. Photo by the author.

At night the concrete lions of Stockholm come to life
and prowl like whispers
among the wanderers
up and down Drottninggatan

Most tourists shriek at the sight
holding back children
who want to pet or ride
these overgrown gray cats

But I knew them instantly
from an immigrant relation
and approached one, bowing low
(they are royalty after all)
and he smiled with his eyes, saying:

“Hej, little one —
our American tiger cousin
asked us to thank you
for creeping into your neighbor’s garden
as a young child,
to feed him small stones
so he wouldn’t go hungry.”

My ancestors were once like him,” I said.
“Memories of being a stranger run deep.
But tell me, why did you awaken
at this bright, late hour?”

He laughed.
“Stockholm’s lions don’t sleep —
we simply wait for the time
when we’re allowed to live.”

He begged me to excuse him
to visit his “colorful aunt from Dalarna”
way over in Skansen
before the light was gone.
Before we parted
I offered him
the pebbles from my shoe
to tide him over
until the dawn.