10 May 2015

Tiger Music

                                       by Marius Kociejowski

Tiger Music

                                                'You see that eminence?
You shall have your heart's fill of them there.'
The village elder, almost blind, pointed to a crag floating in
      distant haze.
                                                           Thus sped with hope,
Our guns cocked, although it was never our purpose to kill,
      we went looking for tigers.

                                        If what the fellâhîn said was true,
If there was nothing they could not, in their language, describe,
We met not a soul who knew all the words, the more than fifty
      or so,
That speak the many shades of tigerness between one which dozes
And another that lunges,
                                               the different music they make.

All day we watched for movement in the stone.
We saw lizards which at our approach slid off like lightning into
A couple of eagles from an eyrie
                                                                           on the crag above
Wheeled and hovered, their shadows like two
Spots of ink moving upon the mountain-side.
We watched for tigers but saw none, although we did see
A gazelle, its gashed throat jewelled with flies.
Whiteness pooling his eyes, the village elder
                                                    was confused or so he appeared.
'What could have made them go away>' he asked. “Once, I saw
      tigers everywhere.'

                              All night we fought among ourselves.
One man said leopards dwelled here, while another lynzes.
Anything but tigers, such was the consensus of all but one.
The old boy stuck to his guns, of course, warned us
Of the dangers that come of grabbing tigers by the tail.
'A snake doubles back upon half its length,' he said, 'whereas
      a tiger goes it whole.'
Our dragoman, scoffing at him, said this was
A country as bare of tigers as his soul of truth.
'So why then,' the other replied, 'if indeed there are none,
Should our language have fifty or more words for the many
      moods they strike?'
                                                       We drank our bitter coffee,
And discussing what provisions we should take,
Said tomorrow perhaps would see the settlement of our dispute,
As to what those famous tigers really were.

Marius Kociejowski, So Dance the Lords of Language, 2003.

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