An interview with Emma Jones in this issue by Melissa Buckheit.
Poems from The Striped World published by Faber & Faber 2009.
Tiger in the Menagerie
No one could say how the tiger got into the menagerie.
It was too flash, too blue,
too much like the painting of a tiger.
At night the bars of the cage and the stripes of the tiger
looked into each other so long
that when it was time for those eyes to rock shut
the bars were the lashes of the stripes
the stripes were the lashes of the bars
and they walked together in their dreams so long
through the long colonnade
that shed its fretwork to the Indian main
that when the sun rose theyd gone and the tiger was
one clear orange eye that walked into the menagerie.
No one could say how the tiger got out in the menagerie.
It was too bright, too bare.
If the menagerie could, it would say tiger.
If the aviary could, it would lock its door.
Its heart began to beat in rows of rising birds
when the tiger came inside to wait.
Oh this and that. But for various reasons –
(the season, and the change in season, the season of grief
and retrospection, the rooftop pulled from the childhood
house, and the internal doll in its stuck seat,
that is, the fictive soul in its brute cathedral, and because of memory,
maybe, and organs in niches, and the beat to things,
and the knowledge that the body is the soul and vice versa,
but that false distinctions are sometimes meaningful,
and that difference, all difference, is just distance, not a state,
not a nation, and because nothing matters, not really,
or everything does, I dont mind being an animal, at all,
because a sentient thing is nothing else, and because toward matter
I feel neither love nor hate but the kind of shuttered
swiss neutrality a watch might feel for time
if it had an animals sentiments, knowing itself a symbol
and function, knowing itself a tool, and because I feel
the dull culmination of various phenomena informing me
and am that culmination, I feel ill in some small way,
though not ill really, just idle, and I prefer, you see,
to keep an impassive inviolable pact with things that tick,
with solitary, shifted things, and because my lifes approximate act
is the sister to some other life, with different tints, I carry
and nurse, my diffident twin, Im often morose, and think
of those statues that lean above themselves in water,
those fountains, stone, with commemorative light,
with disfiguring winds, and because reflection is an end in itself
and because theres an end even to reflection, and an end to the eye,
that heated room, I prefer to keep my artifice and my arsenal
suspended, close; like an angled man; like the stationed sun;
and because matter ends, or I should say, matter turns to matter,
and my small inalienable witness to this is real, I cant pretend
to wish to be a rooted thing, full-grown, concerned
with practical matters, in a rooted world, and careful of borders,
when an ineradicable small portion glints, my mind, that alma mater,
and says, make your work your vicarage) – I put off going back.
On the old ships,
when they crossed the line,
the Captain became cabin boy
and the cabin boy
Neptune, King of the Brine!
In curls and rouge
theyd play at this,
a contrary crew. Then the last bell rang;
the boy resigned;
and the Captain resumed his place.
He wrote in the log:
Today, on course,
we crossed the line, with usual incident.
And he also wrote:
There is no line.