Poetry / June 2013 (Issue 21)

Inside the Mouth of the Sundarbans Tiger

by Lisa Alexander Baron

"Sundarbans, a huge, swampy area of  India and Bangladesh on the Bay of Bengal, remains the largest tract of mangrove forest on the face of the earth.  It is also the only place where tigers eat men," The Spell of the Tiger, Sy Montgomery  

I do not remember the one
sharp pain, being carried
by the neck to the dark forest,
or the bites into the soft
of my stomach.  I first remember
the calls of the others
inside the Royal Bengal
asking me to join them
on their walks through
the halls and libraries
of the great beast's
limbs, or along its spine,
and sometimes to the round
of its tail.  I was told I, too,
would become a great
storyteller.  That soon
an insatiable hunger to tell  
would come to me.  
That the dead only know
when the living need
to hear from us --  
that I would learn to ignore
their pleas and prayers
when needed.  
And as the light fell this evening,
the great hunger came.  And so  
we have gathered around
the great drum of the tiger's heart
and are slapping bass tones
into the coils of its ears.
He ignored us at first,
but we were insistent.  
We entered the soulful water with him
and now wait, half-submerged
behind the leafy cover of a bush,
can see behind the golden mirrors
of the beast's eyes the men
pulling their boat to shore
to gather honey among the mangroves.
I do not remember leaping
on the back of the man
as he moved toward the trees.
I only remember
whispering in his ear,
trying to calm him, telling him
his grandfather was waiting
with the rest of us
in the great belly,
that he was anxious
to tell him a story, that one day
he, too, would crave
to tell someone something. 
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