I Knew What The Tigers Said

I knew what the tigers said
more than ever I knew what the tigers said
as the stone houses came down
and all the fine ladies knifed their lovers,
I knew what the tigers meant
as the police passed like black bees buzzing
looking for targets,
and I took small pictures of Christ out
there behind the billboard
and held them against the red impress
that burned out all selling of
pistols   avocadoes   harmonicas
from then on
all red candles of small boys burning,
Khrushchev crying in his pillow,
da Vinci awakening in terror
crawling through the earth like a broke cable,
mercy mercy I want buttersoft tunes
as alleycat and rosewind in scarlet love,
I remember tigers, I remember a man with his head
in the mouth of a tiger
and I remember what the tiger did,
I know what tigers do:
only woman I have ever loved–
all that was left of the nights
and the days too, I held it all
in the pail of my hands;
I have seen what the tigers have seen,
and the windows at night,
what they saw, I too have seen:
history is also written in small places,
and tigers I know and machines I know too,
machines with teeth, eight hours of teeth,
and I have dared them and they have won,
the tigers can tell you this,
still we can laugh:
a rose for you if your name is Annabelle,
or a lifted drink to some Spain’s idiot
tangled in his cape before the tuneless horn,
laughing at the hours, the tigers are!
can’t you hear them?
this hairpin in my hand
that atoms play like flies in my sick mind
and my hands    my hands
red as any sunset . . . this something
you put in your hair   through your hair
with your underlip a little out . . .
and right eye needling
(ah, I knew you!)
I knew you better than
fish, elms, butternut candy, rain,
female flower you
gone down to this hairpin;–
these legs
this mind
needs to run
run and catch the scent of forgetfulness
like evenings
hours of evenings
grey-headed evenings nodding and
falling asleep

but now I hear the tigers laughing
Khrushchev showers and sings,
there is no divestment from the ordinary,–
allegiance, strain and fatalism
make monkeys of us all, but, ah,
that we should have lived so deliciously!,
and now I am dead.

Author
Charles Bukowski
Written
1963