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Published: Sun Jul 1 2007
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Convertiendse en Characoteles / Sorcerers Changing into Their Animal Forms (detail), 2013, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.

At the magic show I always wanted the tiger
to reappear. Did I have a pea-sized brain?
It was in the box.
And it was impossible to tell,
but I thought the tiger looked blue,
as blue as a little girl who has lost her purse
with money inside for milk. I wanted someone
to tell the tiger it could lead a completely different life,
if it stopped being so good at performing
the trick. Someone should have tossed that tiger
a ham bone. But who listens to me?
I had to kiss the tiger goodbye in 1982.
Its brain grew a tumor and in came a lion
with a caramel-brown face.
It had a new trick. It opened its mouth
and received a man’s head. He put it in sideways
and it came out wet—hair sometimes sticking
to the cat’s fat tongue. Bright bulbs
lit up the lion from behind. Its big fur
held the light as it balanced
all four paws on a milking stool.
It stayed steady, mouth open,
so a man would not die,
not in front of us.

Kristen Tracy has published poems in Threepenny ReviewSouthern ReviewPrairie Schooner, and elsewhere. She co-edited A Chorus for Peace: A Global Anthology of Poetry by Women. Her first novel for teens, Lost It, was published by Simon & Schuster, and her second novel, Crimes of the Sarahs, will be released in spring 2008. (updated 9/2007)

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