The Tiger in the Garden
The tiger in the garden must not be seen,
her largeness inside the rhododendrons,
still as night the shadows of those dark
green leaves, her growl behind the breeze,
the heavy hang of her tail, the hollyhocks,
her saliva the slug trails on plant pots.
She prowled a world of delphiniums,
where blood was the tongue of the black orchid
and liquid the fetid meat of wild garlic.
This was a jungle of cat-root and marrow,
hydrangeas, it must not be seen,
we must look to the filaments between
thistle-crowns, speak only of airy, silvered light
touching down on dandelion-seeded lawns.
Behind every man now alive stand thirty ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living.
Arthur C. Clarke
At first it may look like a photograph
of Victorian children in the shoeless
squalor of some back alley in Shoreditch
or Bethnal Green but no.
This little gang
with their lost expressions and speechless mouths
gaping as though no one gave them a chance
faces fading if you notice
into infinity behind them,
are not the long-since-dead but the never-quite-born.
Their almost-existence comes as a surprise
to existence itself,
an unexpected question
asked of a multitude who don’t know
how to answer,
the gift a child offers
and then withdraws without knowing why.
Everyone and everything is confused.
But there are ranks here:
proximity to life
brings some into sharper focus and the foreground,
while others are obscured, aborted
in thick cuttlefish ink:
here are those
who know where life begins.
And here are those
who don’t. This is where what happened
and what might have
Where the never-ending others congregate.
This is where the corpse and foetus reunite
to talk about the ravages of time.