Here's a poem I wrote a while ago.
In Ancient Rome
slaves would fight savage, crazy tigers.
The stadiums - filled with screaming, lustful citizens -
must have echoed; ricocheting back to the roaring crowd.
But close up, I’d imagine that things felt a little different.
The sweaty piss-stained legs just holding the body upright.
The stave, sharpened to a comic point,
the roar of the crowd a scratchy whisper
as cat creeps nearer – great stripy tail twitching.
Carnivorous breath imagined hot on the cheek,
While heavy barbed claw, quick as a viper
swipes the very life from you.
Thrusting a stick was never a good defence
in the face of such menace.
And so it is today.
The tiger I fight is a different kind – you’ll have guessed.
The snarling stripy metaphor not even a good one.
I should have tried harder.
The immediate terror, the fear is buried.
It doesn’t have a shape, or fabulous fur
My tiger, to flog a dead horse,
Whether it gets me in the end or not depends on luck;
on a body sensible enough to recognise and destroy
what hasn’t been invited and which shouldn’t have come.
Maybe it helped the Roman slave to be able to see what
he was fighting.
Not much though in the end.
He still wound up dead.
Fighting tigers is not really advisable.
Under any circumstances.
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