Larger Game

A female puma, out one dusk in search of larger game,
Froze in her tracks to hear one coming, singing out his name
[Crouch] “Cougar, cougar, toothsome tougar, felid, fauna fo-o-o-o-
Fum-fougar, hubba-hougar, o-sum cougar—ohh . . . hel-lo-o-o!
He purred to glimpse her wildly tawny hide. She, for her part,
Assumed an air of coyfulness, as wildly beat her heart.
“I couldn’t help but hear,” she purred, “that most infectious song
You sang—so well. I would have loved, if known, to sing along.”

He swelled with cougar pride. “It’s called ‘The Name Game.’” “You don’t say!”
She cooed, and added, having her own game in mind to play,
“I hold the record for most animal names worldwide.
Some forty just in English,” she stressed with no little pride.
Ah, yes, he thought, she’s trying to impress me; that’s her game.
He had no little vanity for playing of the same.
“My fearsome name does not roll off some tongue but it’s unfurled
I’m largest of the small cats [swells] fourth largest in the world.”

Fourth. In all three Americas I’m second largest cat,
Next to the jaguar, nothing prey that’s hidden sneezes at.
As such, I’m more related to the lynx and ocelot
Than lions, tigers, whom one doesn’t run across a lot
Here in Belize. At one time I was lumped in the same genus
(Felis) hmmph! as the domestic cat, How you demean us
—so they gave us our own, Puma, which I’m (taller)
Big enough to share with jaguarundi, so-o-o much smaller.”

“No namedropper, I’ll just say I’m cousin to the cheetah,
Fastest runner on the earth—and has to be to eat a
Meal upon the run. And, cougar close kin, I’m no slouch,
With longest back legs of all cats, in leaping from a crouch
Some eighteen feet straight up, some forty feet in front of me;
And climb? A near-plumb mountainside as easy as a tree.
Should one a distance off, yet wary, think that I can’t sprint,
I write its name in earth fast in Oh!-bit-you-wary print.”

“Well, it’s in print I’m, puma, most adaptable of cats,
And found in many climates and as many habitats,
From boreal to tropical, from desert to rainforest;
Steamy, boggy lowland woodland, up to mountains hoarest;
Northern Yukon to the southern Andes, freeze to freeze;
In parallels of latitude, 110 degrees.
And every climate in between that you might care to name,
Wherein a hungry-for-love puma might find larger game.”

“I’m so love hungry I just can’t sit still; crepuscular,
I’m out each dawn and dusk in hopes my cougar-muscular,
Hence, powerful forequarters, neck, and, jaw shall serve to grasp
Such as I pray falls loving prey into my loving clasp.”

“A stalk-and-ambush predator, I’d never think to roar,
Like big cats, foolishly, and scare off whom I so pray for.
I wisely choose to purr, and when I have my prayed-for dream,
I chirp and whistle, hiss and growl, loose puma mating scream.”

“A lover of the wilderness, and solitary, shy,
I’m rarely seen, yet you bring out the beast in me, love’s cry.
The muzzle round my mouth’s pure white. Who hasn’t total blindness,
Sees I’ve drunk, and often, of the milk of puma kindness.”

“My eye shine’s a bright pale yellow, so I see clearly see
That we love-hunters, getting ours, beget this irony:
Pre-daters of our litters, our pertetual survive-stock,
We are hunted, endlessly—as predators of livestock.
As the world record holder, oh! how I must strive
Both day and night to keep my many puma names alive,
Like catamount, and panther, mountain lion—wait, there’s more
Yet—mountain screamer, painter, even Puma concolor.

“Well now it’s funny you should pull those names out of your hat,
Since they’re the very ones I hear Man lay on this cou-cat.
And now that I think on it (I had one thing on my mind
When, seeking larger game, we met, and played the game in kind)
Those puma bragging rights you proudly claimed, I clearly see,
In prideful cougar hindsight, all apply as well to me.”

“Oh, that is just too weird. I swear, as God is judging me,
I had, just as you spoke, its mirror cat’s-eyepiphany:
That Man as often calls me cougar as he allocates
To me each one of your vainglorifying cougar traits.
O Cougar! don’t you see all that is in our synoname
Of Puma/Cougar, Cougar/Puma? We’re one and the same!
Man put that line between us hoping to divide and conquer.
Concolors, we two see eye-to-eye, divine, and concur.”

“That, divinest Puma, we’re a couple must be true;
We look just like each other, as all couples come to do:
We’re rangy, swaybacked, ears erect, and both a tad small-headish,
Which swells nicely being tawny, silver-gray, or reddish.
We both look like we’re attacking Man—and who can blame us?—
When he lumps us in with housecats, simply to defame us,
Hunting us like dogs—we who’ve retractable, big claws
That do such credit to our large-sighs hold-you-tightly paws.”

“(Sigh) when I’m in that love embrace, it makes my head swim so,
The rest of me thinks taking that plunge quite the way to go.”

“Love, so does mine . . . ” [all names fly in the larger game of clinging,
Coupled with the coupling sound of fawning felids singing]:
“Couple, couple, toothsome touple, felid, fauna, fo-o-o-o-
Fum-fouple, hubba-houple, o-sum couple—ohhh . . . hel-lo-o-o!


The above, as well as my treatments of the jaguar, jaguarundi, margay, and ocelot (Belize's five) will begin appearing in Feline Conservation Federation's acclaimed bi-monthly journal beginning with the July/August edition, one per issue.

The world's wild cats (37 species) are disappearing from the wild at a truly alarming rate. At the turn of the twentieth century there were an estimated 100,000 tigers; today's estimate is 500. It is predicted that it will be extinct in the wild within a generation. Sadly, there are even less now of others.

I would like to thank managing editor Lynn Culver for sharing my hope that, where conventional cries fail, music may yet have power, in some small part, to conserve the salvage beast.

David Madison