“There is a human wildness held beneath the skin
that finds all barriers brutishly unbearable.”

– Jim Harrison


“Nur manchmal schiebt der Vorhang der Pupille
sich lautlos auf—.  Dann geht ein Bild hinein,
geht durch der Glieder angespannte Stille—
und hört im Herzen auf zu sein.”

– Rainer Maria Rilke, Der Panther



You were not made,
it so obviously displayed
itself to us, to be caged
in an office –
a cubicle.
The routine dulled
and also drove you
to the edge of the chasm.

I remember lunching
with you; we went
as a gang to the place
on 5th.  You were last
into the booth, laughed
and seemed freed.
But after the meal
you reclined…
your eyes became
pale like the fish
on ice at the open market.

What reality did you see

Two days later
you bolted;
no notice.

Now, of course
with technology,
we work from home,
from a park,
along the river,
at the edge of the roof
of our apartment buildings.

But it wasn’t the space
that made the cage,
was it?


* * *

This is Day 26 of Jilly’s “Days of Unreason.”  I want to thank Jilly for originating this challenge two years ago!  Jim Harrison’s poetry is not for everybody — it’s for those who see the poetic in the natural world, in the trials of life, and at the edge of insanity.  I have grown as a writer and a poet through my interaction with these prompts.  Thank you, Miss Jill!

The quote from Rilke is in the original German.  I encourage you to take the time to read the many English translations of The Panther that are out there.  And then I encourage you to read Rilke!

“We all know that Art is not truth.
Art is a lie that makes us realize truth,
at least the truth that is given us to understand.
The artist must know the manner whereby
to convince others of the truthfulness of his lies.”

― Pablo Picasso

15 thoughts on “Pacing

    • Originally it was “on ice at Pike’s Market.” I wasn’t certain I wanted to make it that localized — or if I’d need rights to use the name.

      I was asked if this was a real event.


  1. Great poem! Thoughts of so many working people. There are at times I wonder what am I doing at all, contemplating the consequences of all my hours of working. Your poem rings hard within me.


    • This one rang hard with me as I wrote it. So many people have unknowingly equated their jobs, their lives with a barred cage. And Rilke’s take on a caged panther is sublime! The Jim Harrison quotes we’ve been working off this month pull a writer out of everyday into the land of “oh-shut-your-mouth!” poetics. Fun stuff that bring with it the pain of growth — as a writer, as a thinker.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think many of us can relate to this, and I certainly thought you were writing about me. I tried the corporate life, but it crushed me (many moons ago). I dream about that cat, stalking me, chasing me down, pouncing….


  3. Wow, that ending. I guess I sometimes feel the bars of the cage. This is a great piece, love those pale eyes…but the ending is just stunning, a reminder that the cage is within us – maybe we are more caged when we can work anywhere? Because then we have to work everywhere…?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Charley, you have taken a great piece of art and created another. That picture is haunting and your words echo. Excellent observations.


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