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An interview with Emma Jones in this issue by Melissa Buckheit.

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Poems from The Striped World published by Faber & Faber 2009.

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Contributor Notes




Emma Jones






Tiger in the Menagerie

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 they’d 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.






              Conversation

 

 

‘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 don’t 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 animal’s 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 life’s approximate act

is the sister to some other life, with different tints, I carry

 

and nurse, my diffident twin, I’m 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 there’s 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 can’t 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’.






Equator

 

 

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

they’d 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.’