Fight Between a Tiger and a Buffalo, 1908
by Julie E. Bloemeke
–Henri Rousseau, Cleveland Museum of Art
I do not wish for people today, sweating
before this fantastical jungle, lush with lies:
two species usually separated by continents,
now prowling a veined green landscape
the artist finished while arrested for fraud.
Can you find the tiger? Her question punctures
the gallery of my brooding. A school tour
of whispers follow. All these months
I’ve lived with a truth
that lied itself: there was no one but you.
Still, something in me wishes to scream
it, to blurt Rousseau, to call out this cat
caught in the kill. I am comb tangled
in the odd parted tiger hair, the unsettling
human eyes of this hunter victor, reveling
under a clutch of more wrong: bananas
do not grow top down. Oranges don’t section
through skin. The true answer is one I starve
to reveal. Do you see the tiger? she asks again.
I want to say, the fangs are not mine, but they are
exactly me, unencumbered for the feed.
Does she know the blood run of all I once thought
I was is seeping from me, pooling on the floor?
That any carnivore would lick to be so fed
by my craving? Another reality blinks
from the point of severed plant.
What if I am both the orange and the flower
above it, just as I was when I puked
from nerves this morning, or last night
when I dropped marinated cherries
over the balcony because my curiosity
for destruction ran so deep? I want to tell
it, to say the flower is most brutal of all:
look how it witnesses this suffocating death
and does nothing but bloom beautiful–
an oblivious sun burning among
the created jungle, tearing a wound
through the blue lie of sky
just by a slight turn of her petals.
Julie E. Bloemeke (she/her/hers) is the 2021 Georgia Author of the Year Finalist for Poetry. Her debut full-length collection Slide to Unlock (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2020) was also chosen as a 2021 Book All Georgians Should Read, one of only two poetry collections selected statewide for the honor. Currently an associate editor for South Carolina Review, she also recently served as co-editor for the Dolly Parton tribute issue of Limp Wrist and was a finalist for the Telluride Institute’s 2020 Fischer Prize. Her poems, essays, and interviews have appeared in numerous publications including Writer’s Chronicle, Prairie Schooner, Cortland Review, Gulf Coast, EcoTheo Review, South Dakota Review, and others. A 2021 fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, she teaches online workshops and is a freelance writer, editor, and guest lecturer. To learn more: https://www.jebloemeke.com