Outside the tiger pen, young men wave and shout.
As the sun dims, the restaurant and gift shop
glow like a warm, Christmas beacon.
Titiana intends to stay on her side,
but today meat odors cloud the zoo air
and the vision of a man climbing her fence
shakes her memory like a dumb monkey of temptation.
But if it was just a monkey, it would be easy:
Catch, claw, and kill. But this is man
man who keeps her walled in,
man who feeds her meat late, long dead,
man, many men, who never let her eat alone.
Where, then, will the tiger's trail lead?
Energy scurries up her tail, twitches into her paws.
She sees and feels her claws extend, contract, extend.
I love you, I love you not: the tension of a proud spirit.
Then it happens: the memory of everything
abandoned in an instant – the bored annoyance,
the tightening leash of tiny territory,
the unmet needs of higher hunger –
all gone, cast onto the tiger's trail.
From The News:
"A spokesman for the zoo corrects the facts:
the wall is twelve and a half feet high,
several less than regulation"
Tatiana scrambles across the dry moat,
Hearing and feeling her body's music,
claws scratching stone like hiphop turntable riffs.
Once at the wall, she crouches and leaps, scaling the wall easily.
From The News:
"Authorities were at a loss Wednesday to explain
how a 250-pound tiger escaped from its enclosure"
The San Francisco Zoo checks on Tony, the other tiger,
and considers a tranquilizer gun for stopping Tatiana.
When gift store and café employees learn a tiger is loose,
they lock themselves in the gift shop,
refusing to respond to the wildness,
to shouts and shrieks along the tiger's trail.
From the Request: "Get me some towels…My brother's about to die out there."
Answer: "We have 16 different police units …We have to make
sure that the tiger doesn't hurt any of the emergency units."
Titiana bounds onto the first man just outside the wall.
She bites and claws him, red mayhem rushing from his neck.
Then two other men shout and wave, distracting her from the kill.
With no barrier between them, Tatiana trails and takes them easily,
attacking one, then the other.
When police arrive, Tatiana lays beside one man,
her heart as calm as the hurricane's eye.
Police drive their patrol cars over, red lights whirling
like dervishes, and Tatiana jumps
back onto the man, re-staking her claim.
1) Captive tigers aren't nearly in the kind of
shape that wild tigers have to be.
2) Scaling the moat and wall is virtually impossible."
Then she looks up, rises with Sphinx-like grace,
and pads into the new winds of commotion.
The police shout a warning: "Halt! Come no further!"
English not being her first language, she continues unabated.
The police open fire. Tatiana drops.
The Final Count:
For the Tiger = 1 man dead, 2 wounded
For the Police = 1 tiger dead.
"Wild tigers in India or Russia prefer not to attack and eat people.
Typically, older tigers attack man in advanced age, when they are
no longer able to kill larger or faster prey."
Tatiana was only four years of age, far from old,
making her home with the keepers and the kept
until the final moments when she broke a new trail
for herself at the San Francisco Zoo,
changing the balance of tiger and man. Forever.