Ubiquitous Voice

An artistic reply to "the Love of God and His Prophet"

Week 13: Easy There Tiger

Filed under: Uncategorized May 1, 2016 @ 12:24 am

Easy There Tiger

 

Born for more than this, drift

Easy there, tiger, you’re hungry. Shine.

But tigers can’t fly…

How’d you do it? The Fundamentals

Big cat like you, up there, peering down for your prey

Missed a lion higher up—snatched

You’re a part of the Pride now

On a cloud atop a cloud

Beneath her, you

Too far from the lair, predator or prey?

The world is your oyster

But you’ve already found the pearl; good on you.

 

Crack—the shell splits open, blood

Beware our wrath

Dust and ash and flags and

Falling into her own depths

Desire’s caught up, time to pay for your prey

Were you afraid? No.

But eventually

She will have to leave here.

You too, tiger.

 

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid is a story of the chic, shining American dream of a Pakistani-born New Yorker named Changez, a dream that descends into ugly, antiquated chaos in the aftermath of 9/11. This poem mirrors the modernity of the book, as well as its narrative. In it, I have represented Changez as the tiger, both in reference to his time spent at Princeton and the fact that he is intensely ambitious—or as his boss at the Wall Street firm put it, “hungry” (p. 9). His seemingly perfect but inwardly tortured love interest in New York, Erica, is represented by a lion, as Changez described her thus: “a lioness: strong, sleek, and invariably surrounded by her pride,” (p. 22). I describe Changez’s newfound success as an oyster, and Erica as the pearl, in reference to Erica’s novel, which she compared to a “sharp speck in side [her]” that she turned into a “pearl” (p. 51).

The “oyster,” the world, then cracks with the arrival of the 9/11 attacks, and the poem takes a sharp turn from an upbeat, newsy, “New York” tone to one that is somber, dirtier, and darker. America goes to war in the desert, patriotism sees a massive resurgence, and America falls into a hurt and nostalgic introspection, in the same way that Erica, her fragile mind shocked, has a “fear that she might slip into her own depths,” (p. 86). The lines, “Desire’s… No.” recall Changez describing the lack of chemical sterilization of Pakistani meat foods, as he says, “These are predatory delicacies, delicacies imbued with a hint of luxury, of wanton abandon… we are not squeamish when it comes to facing the consequences of our desire,” (p. 100). This is akin to Changez’s own predatory desire to become a wealthy elite in the cutthroat finance industry and to be with a stunning girl from the upper rungs of society. And of course, after 9/11 he must face disastrous consequences. Finally, the last three lines refer to when Erica was placed in a mental hospital, and the nurse told Changez that “eventually, she will have to leave here,” not knowing the gravity of those words as they foreshadowed Erica’s suicide. The words also encapsulate Changez’s destiny, as he becomes compelled to leave the life he has created and abandon the United States for Pakistan.

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