A Somewhat Less Cosmic Tiger Than the One Created by Borges
Jorge Luis Borges wrote a number of spectacular poems based on tigers he had viewed at the Buenos Aires Zoo. Leave it to his friend, poet Silvina Ocampo, to provide an altogether different picture. Appropriately, the title is:
A Tiger Speaks
I who move like water sinuously like water I know shameful secrets. I heard that there are dog cemeteries, with earnest inscriptions commemorating human friendship, and that there are horses so stupid they kneel before their masters, oxen who are slaves to farmworkers, cats who are ornaments for ladies, like a hat or a fan, bears who dance to the sound of a tambourine from a man or a dwarf woman, monkeys who flatter their owners, elephants whom the public degrades, abject seals who gargle to entertain the children, cows who let themselves be dragged along, mistreated, who give their milk to anybody, trained sheep who donate their wool to make clothing or mattresses, snakes who caress the head and neck of madmen. We never managed to agree about man’s true nature, some fools think perhaps in gratitude for those who deified us in other times that man is a god, but I and certain of my friends and enemies think that he is edible. The edible man is always shy and trembling, without claws and hair or with very little hair; the man-god distributes food with his hands, so I’ve been told, he has a whip in his tongue and in his eyes. In olden days, when he took up his position in the arena, or in the desert, he wore a halo or carried a magic wand, he had a long mane like a lion’s, which tangles in the teeth. All this disturbs me: sometimes I dream of a rug whose coat resembles mine, and I cry stretched out on my own skin. It’s strange. Inconceivable. But there are stranger things: Don't birds exist who pass the time singing, ridiculous doves, and an infinite series of fish and beetles I’m unaware of but which bother me? Isn't there a poet who thinks about me constantly, who believes that in my skin are signs revealing man’s destiny drawn by God in a poem?