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 IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VII, Part VIII, and Part X.



If for some reason you have missed
the touch and breath of a fellow
human primate, pick up a sign and march
and you just might feel the unmasked
handling, heat, and halitosis of the State,
which cannot find a cure for citizenship
and cannot federalize care, but will spray
fresh pepper in your eyes
like a lackey
livid, liveried, and eager to restore your faith
in the faithlessness of laws.

This palpative uncommonwealth, a thing held
or pulled apart like a tightrope or meat off the bone.
It’s a symbol, apparently, the mark of a creed:
syn — together; bole — throwing. But we are cast
into the repleted gullet of an ungoverned beast,
to feast like microbes on his undigested cud,
until he’s had his fill of us and we of him.