Thursday 7 January 2010

Bengal Tiger


Part of the Royal Dusit Garden Palace,
where Chulalongkorn built himself
a great golden teak palace
with the cutting edge technology of 1900,
was a private botanical garden,
full of rare plants and lakes.

In 1938 the Revolutionary Government
metamorphosed it
into Municipal Zoological Gardens
with animals and paddleboats.
In an enclosure of rock and grass
and paddling pools,
the two tigers can circumambulate
their world in forty five seconds.
They are fat.
They walk to get an appetite.
They eat only to sleep.
We look into their tiny freedom
through the bars of our great cage,
feel brave and shout encouragement in Thai
(they are Bengal Tigers)
and try to stare them in the eye.
They refuse to stare back at us
(they cannot reach us with claws and teeth)
nor do they stare at each other
(they have acquired the virtue
of mutual toleration in their tiny freedom
which we have not yet found in our vast cage).
To please the cameras,
one strolls down
from its ten foot high mountain
to the twelve foot long lake near our bars.
Turning its back on us,
it reverses to the edge of the lake
and tests the water
first with one foot, then the other.
Satisfied, it backs into the lake
until only its lower half is immersed
and reclines, head-high and proud,
staring away from us into the vastness
of its primeval inner jungle.

Tyger, tyger, burning bright,
in your forest of your night.
From Bamboo Leaves by Brian Taylor

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