In San Francisco, that winter,
There was a dark little store
Full of sleepy Buddhas.
The afternoon I walked in,
No one came to greet me.
I stood among the sages
As if trying to read their thoughts.
One was huge and made of stone
A few were the size of a child’s head
And had stains the color of dried blood.
There were even some bigger than mice,
And they appeared to be listening.
“The winds of March, black winds,
The gritty winds,” the dead poet wrote.
At sundown his street was empty
Except for my long shadow
Open before me like scissors.
There was his house where I told the story
Of the russian soldier,
The one who looked Chinese.
He lay wounded in my father’s bed,
And I brought him water and matches.
For that he gave me a little tiger
Made of ivory. Its mouth was open in anger,
But it had no stripes left.
There was the night when I colored
Its eyes black, its tongue red.
My mother held the lamp for me,
While worrying about the kind of luck
This beast might bring us.
The tiger in my hand growled faintly
When we were alone in the dark,
But when I put my ear to the poet’s door
That afternoon, I heard nothing.
“The winds of march, black winds,
The gritty winds,” he once wrote.
“The Tiger” — Charles Simic