Sleep Tigers, Family Tigers

Thomas Lisk



Glutted, in Thanksgiving oblivion I dreamt a tiger.

And while I slept, the paper ran a cut

about a three-year-old mauled by the family cat,

three-hundred-fifty pounds,a six-foot Bengal yearling.

The equivalent boy weighed maybe forty. Tyler.

The paper was the N. and O. The news

and the observer, separate points of view.

The story failed to name the tiger.


No cartoon, my bright dream tiger

was not a squirrel turning a creaky wheel

but a real feline, traveling dark and bright

through a maze ofstraight cages, tree-high

and connected by black tunnels of mesh steel.

A pacing tiger, trapped but moving as if free.




When deputies responded to the call,

Tyler's dad had shot the cat, now still

"rolling from side to side." They too fired.

Bang.And bang again. The paper said

that conservationists had warned the father

just a week before: A tiger

may be beautiful but, man, you'd best beware.

A feral cat demands attentive care.


Cat carcass and mauled boy trucked apart,

the father answered what the sheriff asked.

Then, trapped, he stayed, and "huddled in his car,"

caged by ravenous faces in the glass.

Once his tiger prowled in happy dreams.

Now, freed, this father never will be free.




Though he ought to know his place is in the home,

if left alone, our placid tabby Chase would roam.

Once he hooked my arm to bloody grooves

when I tried to free him from the spiral steel

stake we leash him to to keep him from the street.

I went out to draw him in; he wanted to be loose.

Imagine me a tiger.Imagine me.


Something larger fit these portents--facts,

I hope--as if cages suddenly connect,

slipped free in the dark parts of--what?

Books and minds and something else connect,

Tyler and tyger tumbling in eternity,

word and wonder. But already details race apart,

thick paws and curving milk-glass teeth.




In a book I chose by chance, a woman claims,

"We are babies who think we are tigers,"

and I wonder if my much-imagined kids

might say I find in books a way to hide

the family's baby tigers, or evade them,

seeking novel tigers. Unlikely they

would note how quickly I forget some dreams,

or how ruthlessly I cling to others.

When all the books around me seem

an endless maze of cages, I turn and turn again.


But once I saw the future in a dream,

that half-trapped pacing tiger stays,

and freedoms angry moment, night resolving into day.

And the other familys grief was in the morning news.




Caw Caw Cause

Thomas Lisk


A crow caws like God,

sharp and clear and out of reach above the roof,

perhaps above the trees.

I started to say I didn't understand.


Sharp and clear and out of reach above my head,

The caws convey a message full of memory and reassurance.

I started to say I couldn't understand --

in fact they reached me, standing under the words.


The caws are in themselves a memory and reassurance.

I called them words but they are simpler than sentences.

In fact they reached me, standing under the sounds.

They reached me fully, whatever I may think they said.


I called them words, those simple sounds.

Translucent lines with silver hooks snag a black sail.

My body took a message, whatever I may think.

The voice is inexhaustible: the infinity of cause.


Translucent lines with silver hooks snag the sailing soul.

Perhaps above the trees

the voice is inexhaustible: the infinity of caws.

A lone crow caws like God.

A Catalog of Ponies of the Pyrenees

Thomas Lisk


1. Help! The seawall has caved.

2. One of the oceans threatens to engulf us.

3. The crowbar you sent was no use at all.

4.I would send it back but postage prohibits.


2. One of the oceans threatens to engulf us.

2.Sand can only do so much against water.

4. I would send it back but postage prohibits.

4.Send what back where?


1. Sand can only do so much.

1. Sand can't do anything; it's a victim.

3. Send what?

3. Imagine mailing a prybar packed in sand.


1. Sand is a victim.

2. I chased death all over the parking lot.

3. Imagine sending a sand-packed iron bar.

4. A well-placed blow crushed a grain to dust.


2. I chased death all over.

4.A blow from the bar broke the sand.

4. The soul would be a well-placed grain.

2.Aren't we all chasing death all the time?


4.The soul is the size of a transparent granule.

3.It has been customary to think of it as a thumb-sized flame.

2. Aren't we all hotly pursuing our ends?

1. A thumb would be a mighty large grain.


4.The soul is the size of a transparent granule.

2.Aren't we all hotly pursuing our ends?

2.Isn't each of us

4.the size of a granule?


3. The Upanishads mention a fat candle flame.

3. Whose custom depends on geography and language.

1.If it were flame-sized we could see it.

1.A flame under a collapsing seawall hasn't the ghost of a chance.


4.I wrapped it but the old postage took up too much space.

4.I had to use the paper over again, stamps and all.

2.Watching wind-driven water I can't identify the ocean.

2.If I didn't know better we could be on any coast.


4.After the floods subside, the crowbar will be useful.

3.Whose custom depends?

2.The threat is still imminent.

1.The seawall is down.Help!


Wet Oyster Patty

Thomas Lisk


You never gave me a single idea.I'd try to think and one look at you would rasp the edges of my thoughts until they stood up like quills on black fire.Talk about stress!This was the ruby of drupelet facets under a citrus skin and semi-gummy bones.Blurry, I meant to say, like 32.20 vision, which I believe is almost too light, and all the revolver's shells nearly equidistant from the gunslinger - or rather the target - if not from the barrel, the pistol barrel, not the pickle barrel where the polka band in lederhosen chewed reeds and wheezed lieder.

Because I could believe, I took what you gave and tried not to think.Which was easy. You made me not want to, for buffalo in rut snorted, clearing the organ pipes to fuse organized tunes as large and gently arching as the staked plains before the stakes were put in to contain the hoofed steaks who replaced the shaggy humped meat I referred to earlier.

The important thing is to belong.Bison, moose, elks.And you have to pay your dues. These associations aren't free any more.Just men, snorting and farting in gold-embroidered green felt fezzes like permanent party hats.You could accuse me of facile turpitude for peeking as you boggled, gobbled up miles of lung space with your light blue spice-scented inspirations.And the accusation would be entirely just. It's just that what appeared to be an idea kept disappearing around the corner into the wait room, and when I got there panting, you were doing sit-ups (or tummy crunches), so if I could have stood it the contours of the entire nature morte (or still life) would have been revealed to me from all sides simultaneously.

But something wasn't quite right.I couldn't tell if the plump mocha muleteer with you was Hermes or Aphrodite, your daughter or your boyfriend, and I had to rely on your body to give me the whole message, which I could have understood better if only I could have thought.