Black and white ink painting of a tiger

Tiger | Evgeny Turaev / Shutterstock

“The Big Cats” is a ten-part poetry cycle written and read by Val Vinokur and published weekly at Public Seminar. For more, read Part I, Part IIPart IVPart VPart VI, Part VII, Part VIII, Part IX, and Part X.



A wounded animal conceals itself
to hide from death and to seek it.

In childhood fever dreams, a mass
would spread like an eclipse from inside
the body, heavy as a dark moon engorged
on lymph, swelling on itself, impossible
until it disappeared even more impossibly.

What self to preserve in loneliness where
fissures appear in the hide when the tongue
starts looking in the fur for wounds to lick.
The Leviathan swallows every single creature,
every last child of the kingdom of pride, its
baleen straining every article of nonsense
that swimmingly identified us to ourselves.

God asks Job who can draw out the Leviathan
with a hook or snare his tongue with a rope
or open the doors of his face. But nobody
answers the damn question. And pride has
closed our eyes like flowers of the night,
soft tight blossoms that we are, crushed
to save whatever world comes next.