When a Bengal tiger was found living
————atop a mountain of chicken bones in the back
room of a Harlem apartment, police officers
————rappelled from the rooftop by rope swing
& shot it full of ketamine. As the photograph
————shows, the first dart only served to further
anger the animal, fixed jaw-open in this square
————of image I fuss over like a loose tooth
in my months of magical thinking.
————The tangled latticework of the window bars
the tiger lunges toward, swathed in shadow,
————the gray bricks of the building lashed
with the afterlife of rain, the fangs latched
————onto the borders of the frame as a gesture
of fear those without hands can only express
————through the mouth. Nowhere to be found
is the man who first carried the tiger
————into the building swaddled in a blanket,
feeding it clumpy milk from a bottle,
————leaning his face closer for a sample
of its stale breath as it snored in his lap,
————assembling a sandbox for the cat
when its muscles erupted into a landscape
————of steep hillsides he tried his best to tame
with the braided hair of dolls, discs of cow liver,
————strips of tablecloth sprayed with cologne
he tasked it to find hidden behind
————dressers, tucked under the rug, slipped into
the gap between the wall & the tank
————where he kept his saltwater crocodile.
Sometimes he’d crack open the door, turn
————his head away & dip his hand into the hungry
mouth waiting there, letting it gnaw
————at his skin until he could trace the warp
& weft of the cuts with a pen. He kept it
————secret nonetheless, blaming the gashes
he couldn’t stanch on the neighbor’s stocky pitbull,
————pouring vinegar on the wood floor
to disguise the smell of piss, lying
————to the cops as they came pounding at the door,
trying to stash in his closet what
————in the end took six men to lift.



Matthew Tuckner