Day 22 of the poem-a-day challenge – and I will be caught up for today.
The prompt was to write a poem that was a fable with a moral, and I thought back to Rudyard Kipling’s Just-So stories. I loved them growing up. They are still quite wonderful and if you haven’t read them, I recommend them.
I followed that idea down the rabbit hole, and this is what I came up with.
How the Tiger got his Stripes
Once upon a time, my best beloved, the great tiger was orange with creamy white bellied, and white whiskered, and white gloved. Oh, he was magnificent, and knew it very well indeed. Handsome, he was, though he was also thin, poor beast, for he was too bright to hide, his brilliant colors aglow both day and night. His meals were few and sparse when all could see him glowing in the dark.
Tiger moped about, as thin as ever, and hungrier too, when he came upon a man, drawing in the sand. “So clever,” thought tiger, readying himself to pounce, “What a waste it will be, but I must eat.”
“Wait!” cried the man, who was indeed astute, and did not want to become tiger’s meat.
“I’m hungry,” roared tiger, “and you are weak.”
“If I help you, friend tiger, please abide, a while. Don’t eat me and don’t eat my kin. Promise me, and I will help you to hide.” Tiger lay down and promised to pay heed, and fell asleep, exhausted and in need.
So the man using ink of different types to work his magic as he had agreed. He painted upon Tiger, long black stripes, short, fat and thin, until Tiger wore them all boldly on his brilliant orange coat.
Then Tiger woke and started to condemn. “I will be a laughingstock. A bad joke!” And he went once more to pounce on the man. But the man was gone with his paints in hand. Tiger sulked, worse off than when he began, or so he thought at first.
But soon Tiger learned he could hide better now, dressed in shadows, than ever he could in just orange and white. And he has taught his children what he knows, painted with shadows, hiding in plain sight.