Oct 5, 2008

The Sunday Salon - The Other Tiger

The Sunday Salon.comThe past few days have felt like an endless void. I have not been reading, I have not had the desire to read. I pushed through a little bit of The Girl Who Loved Tome Gordon and Prayer for Owen Meany, but it felt more like an exercise in futility than anything resembling enjoyment. I know in part I am just not reading the type of books that are speaking to me. What do you do when you don't feel like reading?

I have also been reading a little bit of poetry to help with my current endeavor of writing a poem a day for the next 30 days. Today is day 5 and I have not written my poem yet. Do you like poetry? Do you like to write it, read it, or listen to it? Of the three I think I like to listen to it the best. I love to listen to Garrison Keillor read a poem every day on The Writer's Almanac.

On Tuesday I wrote about a book I was reading and the connection it had to William Blake's poem "The Tyger". When I came across the following poem shortly after, it really interested me.

And the craft that createth a semblance
—Morris, "Sigurd the Volsung" (1876)

I think about a tiger. Twilight exalts
The vast and never-resting library
And seems to make the shelves of books recede;
Powerful, innocent, new-made, stained with blood,
He will move through his rainforest and morning,
Will leave his spoor upon the muddy bank
Of a river whose name must be unknown to him.
(In his world there are neither names nor past
Nor future, only an eternal present.)
And he will cover inhuman distances
And sniff out in the winding labyrinth
Of odors the true odor of the dawn
And the delectable odor of a deer.
Among the bamboo's sunstripes I make out
The sway of his stripes and I have a sense
Of bone beneath the dazzle of rippling hide.
In vain the swelling seas, the mountain ranges,
The deserts of the planet come between us.
From this house in a somnolent, remote
South American port, I seek you, dreaming,
Oh tiger of the far banks of the Ganges.
Evening spreads in my soul and I reflect
That the apostrophized tiger of my poem
Is a tiger made of symbols and of shadows,
An endless string of literary tropes
And things remembered from encyclopedias,
And not the fatal tiger, the dread jewel
Who goes on under the sun or changeful moon
Completing in Sumatra or Bengal
His round of love and indolence and death.
Against this tiger of symbol I have opposed
The actual tiger, tiger of hot blood,
The one who decimates the buffalo tribe,
And today, 3 August 1959,
See, lengthening on the grassland afternoon,
A stationary shadow, but already
The fact of having given it a name
And dreaming up its habits and surroundings
Makes it a fiction, not a living creature
Among the living creatures of the earth.

It is a third tiger we are seeking.
Just like the others this will be a shape
Out of my dreams, a system of human words
And not the tiger himself, the vertebrate tiger
Who treads the earth, far beyond the reach
Of our mythologies. I know all this,
Yet something sends me on this open-ended
Ancient adventure, and I persevere
In hunting through the hours of afternoon
The other tiger, the one not in the poem.

after Borges


Robert Mezey
Ploughshares
Spring 2008

3 comments:

  1. I too am searching for a book that lures me into reading it's inner pages but I am coming up empty. I will venture back to the library again this week and return what I took out last week and hopefully find something to fill my reading void. Btw that poem was amazing.

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  2. Have you discovered American Life in Poetry yet? I love to get the weekly poems in my email box.
    ~Happy Salon-
    SmallWorld Reads

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  3. Don't stress. Reading will come bak. I was unable to read anything in July and august. September too was a bad start. I read short stories in Sep, 31 short stories and two books. My reading has returned.

    Watch movies, listen to music. If reading does not happen let it be...

    SS 1: Burning up in October Sun
    SS 2: A Dog About Town

    Kill word Verification

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