The Tiger in the Driveway has escaped the carousel and stands chained
to the trunk of a dogwood in the suburbs fourteen miles from New York. Bright
in his new coat of paint, his stripes
blend with the mix of light and shade,
his likeness, and only slightly less dangerous. Across the street, nearly hidden
in dense brushy rhododendron, a bronze swan glimmers in dots of light like rain or little mirrors,
like medallions. When the light’s right they reflect the tiger, broken into pieces, flattened, tamed.
She doesn’t like to hear his panting on hot days but senses how the chain beneath his chin
chafes skin. Sympathy like light wind cannot stir her feathers, weighted with metal.
Nights she imagines his slide silent as shadow to the beds upstairs. Driven out (he is always
driven out), he dreams it’s possible to slip behind the stove or fridge; he spits
like a house-cat when the woman sprinkles water on the grass and wets his clothes. He misses
his little blue jacket but not the saddle’s golden tassels and gilt trim, and he longs for music,
but not the children climbing and patting. On long summer afternoons he might doze
in the shade of the garage where blades and spokes, old bikes and broken mowers, gleam beneath coats
of grime and dust, brown furry frosting. He is manifest desire and drips like bitten peaches, plums; tigers.
His fine eyes shine with bleak intelligence and blink in all that dark, and then he stretches, pink
tongue curling. His breast heaves. Bars bow: he is potential mouth and froth and leap,
brings smells like meat, the scent of mud from rivers with him, bruises, streaks of old abrasions, chunks
of carrion and traces of wild grasses, memories of fatty thighs of swans,
their gorgeous splayed black paddlefeet.
© Deena Linett