For Dulce, who has a way with tigers, for Rachel, who told me about Anna Pavlova, the ballerina in the snow, and for Beatrice, always a dancer.
Tigers cannot be trained.
If you could only assemble enough pieces of their would-be handlers,
You could ask them yourself.
The creatures you see in circuses,
Those are not tigers.
Those are squirrels,
Fed to bursting
And painted with stripes.
Tigers are solitary.
But sometimes, at night, one will leap soundlessly through an open bedroom window,
And sit for hours--
Dazzled by the reflected moon light
Off a brass bed frame.
Tigers are fascinated with dancers.
Tigers have great rough tongues,
And their hearts beat slowly, steadily.
Once, there was a ballerina in the snow--
She had gotten off the train and
Stepped into the Russian winter,
Intent on sending the snow back up into the sky
So that she could appear in the capital that night.
A tiger met her there.
(or it may have been a tigress)
After dancing in St. Petersburg,
She invited this tiger into her bed.
Her manager had been going to object, but thought better of it,
And went grumbling off to his room at the end of the hall instead.
Tigers are naturally graceful beyond measure.
The next night, before the Czar, the ballerina danced with a tiger;
She knew that tigers can be
And that tigers are
The most beautiful dancers of all.
Tigers fall in love only once in their lives.
After the Royal command performance, the dancer disappeared for two weeks.
A staretz arriving from the countryside reported having seen a ballerina in the snow,
Dancing either with God
Or a very large tiger.
A short time later,
Confined to her bed,
Unable to breathe,
The dancer acknowledged that she was dying.
Her manager scolded and wept.
Her devotees buried her hotel in bouquets.
"Listen," she whispered,
"I have danced with a tiger
And by doing so,
We sent the snow back up into Heaven--
Something that even God and the angels cannot do."
Ballet, the arts, all of that, are one thing--
But a tiger, once having loved, will never change its mind.
Tigers, the last romantics, cannot be trained, humbled or caged.
I invite you, fool, to try.