Love Story: Bengal Tiger

“Somehow, this surrender freed him—the tiger released him and turned on one of his companions.”  New Yorker, “Tigerland,” 4/21/08

They strike from behind.
When I spun she was leaping 
To take me at the nape.
In my sudden turn, the nape was not there,
So she hugged me face to face, like a lover.

I was young, strong, 
Yet knew that I would die.

I tilted my face to avoid touching hers. 
Her fierce head 
Spilled saliva and growl on my shoulder.
Claws clung, sunk deep, painless,
Into back, ear, flank.

I had nothing more to do.

I acquiesced, 
Flung arms fully around to embrace, squeeze
Into this fatal dance.
I felt softness, fur and ribs,
Odd surge of kill along her spine.

Then, as though shocked by surrender, she retracted,
Withdrew in one graced motion, 
Turned in the bloodied dust
To strike my friend,
Carrying him by the throat into the brush.

When I scream at night,
My wife enters the dream,
Embraces, comforts my shaking form.
I surrender to her heat and warmth.
Again I am saved.

DAVID LA GUARDIA is a Professor of English at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. His areas of specialty are nineteenth and twentieth century American literature. In addition to various poems and essays, he has published a study of twentieth-century poet Wallace Stevens titled Advance on Chaos: The Sanctifying Imagination of Wallace Stevens. David lives with his wife, Lisa, in Hudson, Ohio.  
The Adirondack Review