There Was A Tiger Here
A bright spring rain fell the day through.
The branches drip, the sand in the lanes is damp yet.
The sky has cleared. Slowly you go through the park,
the sun of evening haunts it, apparitionlike.
In the illumined peak of the dark tree,
a blackbird sings and sings. The evening’s very quiet.
The sunlight turns wine red. And on the lawn,
there shimmers a bronze monument.
Just then you spot in the wet ground before you,
the wide, the clear, the deep impressions.
The park is very big, sunstriped, and full of shadows.
You start, go on, but know: a tiger came this way.
You still remember the day
when first you saw the tiger’s trail.
You had just woken, and there it was.
Morning was like evening, full of shadows.
That was oh so long ago.
The night of that morning, you lay alert in the dark,
then fell into mazy sleep, like gazing out a window
and beyond it softly snows and will not stop.
You live as if not much has changed, really.
Soon after that morning, autumn came,
then we had the long, the damp winter,
and wet snow covered a dark city.
You sit, elbows on the table, you look out the window.
It is later afternoon, soon to be dusk.
Not a sound will come into the room now.
You think how, outside, the winter day is fading.
You see just a piece of the sky and a roof, it is red,
likely the snow slid from it in the noontime sun.
In the last of light, the chimney casts a feeble shadow.
Evening will be leadblue, you think, and a little foggy.
You go to the window. A woman in white walks in the street,
across the way a child plays in the sand,
a summer day flickers in the darkened trees.
Like a great shimmering cloud, fades the summer day.
Maybe not much has changed, at all.
It’s just that in rooms where once you were already,
you fail to find a favorite picture on a wall,
now there’s only a pale rectangle there.
More and more often on your familiar routes,
tall, dusty horsemen cross your path.
Places you walk in, day after day,
bronze heavy monuments suddenly occupy.
And sometimes, entering a familiar house,
you find yourself in a cellar, stale and squat.
It was not there before. And huge snarling dogs
are tearing at their chains outside in the gardens.
So you live, you’re always off to distant places,
down foggy seas, up snowy mountain ranges,
you see so many new, so many foreign cities,
in whose small quiet squares you love to sit.
There, too, on the smooth pavement, from time to time,
dark, broad stripes stand out in the slanting sun.
You pick up a stone, you weigh it in your palm,
you murmur absently: There was a tiger here.
But him, himself, you haven’t met yet.
Whoever the tiger looks at soon dies.
Always he pads before you, through summer’s dark door,
through the white, fog chambers beneath December’s skies.