Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Painted Wooden Leg

outside Eureka in a cheap corral with a fifteen-foot chain
link fence a retired insurance salesman raises tigers

he lets Cindy rub her cheeks in the eggy fur of the cubs'
bellies feed them milk and soaked toast from her defenseless

thumb the girl holds a cub outside the tigers' cage
the mother's paw (smell of a garbage scow) can only reach

so far through the wires the dumb cub its mother chirp
like broken machines their faces smeared with petroleum

jelly glow with a dull dirty sheen Cindy wipes and wipes
at tiny eyes at 2am her father fighting dream claws

in the damp bedroom Cindy scales the fence balances
on top her small slipping sneakers squeak the tigers

circle underneath yawn stretch fall collapse
in heaps scratch their spines against the meaty straw

their tender white bellies call inviting

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