Issue 5

Nights I Let The Tiger Get You

 · Poetry


Phone at the end 
of the bed. Voice on the end 

of the phone. At the end of the bed I sit down,
I am one eye of a whirlpool. Voice

with its phrases like
                        There’s been an

anaerobic event. I know. The aquatic
hug, the kelp around our ears, the voice filtering

through the surface: slow 

             thrown from the passenger’s side at 
down a snowy mountain. I’ve lost

our family album. Of course my mother
needs me. 


My legs, my legs, two lumbering
jackasses that just can’t get 
the job done. 

             When looking straight ahead, 
             carrying a person feels almost the same
as dragging a body along
behind you. 

But looking backwards—the empty
stretch of river trumps
the face 

sliding across the concrete.
Stupider every time, 

but smoother. Those easy iron locks, that  
oiled machinery. The larded
sides of bread grow slippery
in hot hot hand. 

The sound of the tiger 
no longer behind us but
on top. 


It’s not like I didn’t know
what was about to happen. It’s not like
I didn’t know that backyard, 

that picnic blanket. What was about to 
happen was 

             not unlike you. 

Was typical.

The thing about recurring dreams is


Cat licking
a knuckle. Over and over. Cat 

licking a knuckle. Joan Didion remembers 
Hawking talked
about retrieving time from a black hole. 

Fishing it out like a stellar
tiger at the 
edge of 

information is encoded in the 
correlations between future and past

I stop, I think “tiger” is too 
cliché but what isn’t and: I can’t change
the way I see it.

Who wouldn’t need a year
to beat the mirror
into muddling out a face. Striped
or bloody. Furred or gleaming. You are one

or the other. You are 
one or the other. You 

are one or the other. 

NIGHTS I LET THE TIGER GET YOU © 2013 by Elizabeth Cantwell, reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Black Lawrence Press.

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