On Maneaters of Kumaon (1944)
Originally published in the Open Window Review issue 2.
Came Christ the tiger.
–T.S. Eliot, “Gerontion”
When in youth I hunted, the tiger
I tracked was not so much the prize
as was the tiger of youth inside–
to tame his reckless strength to valiance.
A hunter was a sportsman then.
Some nights I never left a tree
as among the mountain-scaling terraces
I tricked my quarry with cattle I’d chained.
The Bachelor of Powalgarh’s pug could fit my head.
I met him where a lumber cart had left
a track in the waning sub-Himalayan jungles.
Lying in wait, his face appeared above
and right and much too close. I shot his head
and he in rippling, almighty blindness stormed
and tore apart a nearby tree to splinters,
not falling, as I declined to move a muscle.
When other men speak of God, my face lights up,
because I feel I understand their secret feeling,
but always the more they speak, the more fraternity fades.
My hidden Maker moves through banded elephant grass.
For well I know there’s a singular, subtle tiger out there,
and the same tiger that sprung up inside me in my youth
will one day pounce from some unseen cover outside me
and tear apart this wearied impression he formed in flesh.
*Image: Tiger Stripes by Bas Lammers