Tiger in the Field of Flame Grass


Velvet bars of darkness interslash,
Crossing, recrossing in silken moire.
The marbled head with calm intensity
Of concentration need not turn to see
When a blackbird bursts in a startled flash
From its shadow-nest into obvious day.

He has thought and thought until now he slides
Thoughtless through the head-tall flame grass.
He is as omnipresent and as noiseless
As the thoughts he thinks no more, and as he hides
He conceals nothing, being in this place
But blades of light amid the other blades.

The way is open before him. His mastery
Of time is absolute; he is in time,
Just as in light, part of the saffron flame
Of it, burning forward steadily
Toward the unalterable purpose of the game.

Soon he will come to where the grass grows thin.
The waterhole beyond with its blue-clay muck
Will crowd with weary prey. His ears flat back,
He'll crouch and watch and wait, intent upon
The populist candidate in his limousine.


Fred Chappell, Spring Garden: New and Selected Poems, Louisiana State University Press, 1995.