Academic journal article TriQuarterly

Rajah in Babylon

Academic journal article TriQuarterly

Rajah in Babylon

Article excerpt

We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.

Psalm 137:2

Rajah doesn't like Nirvana but he seems to tolerate Jimmy Cliff: The Harder They Come

is Rachael's little joke, and it's chuffing from her boom box as Rajah paces, his planetary back-

and-forth, manic orbits, exactly like Rilke's panther. The bars and his stripes run parallel

and fuse, head abob like a marionette's, the snare drum of his paws on the cement.

He's fasted for three days, and thinks that Rachael's brought ten pounds of horse meat in her pail,

but his flared puzzled nostrils don't smell a thing and Noelle bends down to the tranquilizer gun

while Rachael coos endearments meant to slow him down so Noelle will get a decent shot.

Good Rajah Pretty Rajah Big Rajah - Eyes wide, he turns, and Noelle aims and fires

and he shrieks and circles faster and we wait while Jimmy croons that we can get it if we really want.

"Two minutes, tops," says Rachael, and by the time the song is over he has wobbled and gone down.

He is one four-thousandth of the world's tigers. To save them takes some drastic measures

and so the cage door's opened and we file in, Bob and Noelle and Rachael

and me, and the tape slurs on to Pressure Drop while Bob and Noelle strain to turn him on his back,

heaving till he's sprawling belly up, the Maytals moaning as Rachael wipes

her brow, and fumbles with the electro-jack, a miniature land mine, a low-tech

bristle of hose and wire. …

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