Jim, I like the imagery very much, especially of the lion, and the overall vibe as the stories unfold with such leisurely pacing.
I have trouble seeing the logic of why some characters are consistently referred to as animals, while others are consistently referred to as humans, but maybe that's not a bad thing. The lack of logic inclines me to see "the policeman" as a delusional denizen of the alley who really has made this place his home, rather than as an actual policeman with a station and home elsewhere to provide shelter and comaraderie.
There's very little other evidence in the poem to support this reading, though. If the poem contained more clues in that direction, I would find the protagonist much more believable. As it is, it's hard to take the last two lines as anything but a literal policeman wishing to be a person experiencing homelessness on this particular alley, and my literal mind can't quite buy that.
My biggest logical difficulty with the poem is believing that such an idyllically peaceful alley could have existed at any point in history. It is patrolled by a solo beat policeman with plenty of time to get to know the characters on his beat, and no supervisor checking up on him or paperwork to fill out. And it is populated by quirky characters like a solo "lady of the evening" who also does not seem to fear any threat of violence, despite being in a profession notorious for experiencing a high rate of violence from customers and pimps alike, and who does not seem to regard the regular presence of law enforcement where in the place she regards as her turf in any way bad for business there (despite regarding competition from other women as bad for business). I just can't quite buy it.
The policeman’s superiors say he is lazy.
Every year they shrink his beat.
He has no choice but to leave the alley
some nights to arrest a few miscreants.
The policeman wishes he’d chosen a different profession.
I have not heard of any police department implementing such an innovative managerial technique--responding to an officer that they feel is lazy by shrinking his beat every year, and still (apparently) not providing any supervision or demanding that he provide documentation of increased productivity--more tickets written, more reports, etc. That sort of passive discipline might happen in a small town like The Andy Griffith Show,
but not in a place with real crime to deal with and real pressure on the police department's budget and real departmental management trying to show accountability to a cost-conscious city council. So again, are his superiors just in his head?
Apologies if I'm just missing the point. I do feel that the tragicomic portrait has overall potential, but I need more help to suspend my disbelief.