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 VI, Part VII, Part IX, and Part X.



Everyone is writing letters
that nobody will read, except
the tigers pawing at our papers
with such delicacy as they roar
with laughter at our careful English:
We only taught them Latin and arithmetic
— at least we can’t be blamed for this!

The fragile thing that breaks
will cut you best — not like
a knife but powdered glass,
tree ornaments crushed underfoot,
tracking bloody sock prints
away from the scene of celebration,
a holiday that always marked the birth
of something you could not undo.

Follow your own feet uphill, fix
your gaze on the undeliverable missives
flying back to their return address,
back to their stiff basaltic pillows
creeping towards our bedrooms
like Vesuvius to Pompeii.