Tiger Dance

The floor is nearly empty.
I came here on a wager.
Couples waltz in Viennese style:
A masquerade set to Strauss.
Lions dance with lambs,
Bears with gazelles.
Gay devils leap and twirl in box-step
With buxom angels.

I come as myself,
On all fours,
Eyes green and electric,
Limbs, taut sinews, ending in claws
Now sheathed.
I walk at ease,
Tail swishing,
Stripes swimming with each step.

A tall woman, unmasked, rises from her table.
Her eyes regard my approach with wonder:
A cat lover, obviously.
My bet is won, I conclude.

Rearing up on hind feet,
I ask tacitly;
She accepts,
Taking a paw in each hand.
She'll have to lead,
For I don't know the steps.

"Heel, toe, toe."
She whispers.
We step together slowly,
Gradually, I come to know the steps.
We dance before the wide, horrified eyes of fleeing couples,
And I am aware
That I have won that fresh kill,
The wager my fellow hunter promised.
Who says tigers can't dance!

George Chadderdon © 1996