‘Tiger in the National Gallery’ by Susan Utting

Tiger in the National Gallery
after Henri Rousseau’s “Surprised!”

Why surprised? – I’m everywhere:
I’m tapestry and marquetry, and Paris
hothouse fantasy. I am pelt and roar
beneath a rich man’s silk-shod feet,
I shoulder-shrug a wealthy woman’s
back, clotheshorses catwalk me;
glass cases keep me cool and pristine,
poems fete me, legends spin me,
taxidermy gives me life eternal.

And here I am among the greenery
of Jardin des Plantes, exoticised,
spectacular and jungle-fierce, a sharp-
toothed pussycat between Madame Matisse
in her kimono and leering lush Bibi la Purée.
I am central, spot lit, frozen, catch me
while you can, before I am no more
than rumour, before I’m history.


Surprised! (Tiger in a Tropical Storm)
Henri Rousseau

Oil on canvas, 1891, London, National Gallery

Susan Utting – Writer, Poet, Poetry workshop leader/tutor, performer has published five collections, most recently Half the Human Race: New & Selected Poems (Two Rivers Press, 2017).

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