I am not God’s little lamb,
I am God’s sick tiger.
and I prowl about at night,
and what I love I bite,
and upon the jungle grass I slink,
snuff the aroma of my mental stink,
taste the salt tang of tears upon the brink
of my uncomfortable muzzle.
My tail, my beautiful, my lovely tail,
My stripes are matted, and my coat once sleek
hangs rough and undistinguished on my bones.
O God, I was so beautiful when I was well.
My heart, my lungs, my sinews and my reins
consumed a solitary ecstasy,
and light and pride informed each artery.
Then I a temple, now a charnel house.
Then I a high hozannah, now a dirge.
Then I a recompense of God’s endeavour,
now a reproach and earnest of lost toil.
Consider, Lord, a tiger’s melancholy
and heed a minished tiger’s muted moans,
for thou art sleek and shining bright
and I am weary.
Thy countenance is full of light
and mine is dreary.
Stevie Smith (1903-71), Little Boy Sick, 1978.