The Tiger at Jianling Shan Public Park, Dandong Opening
The day before we dared to cross
The once-green Yalu by the Friendship Bridge
(Beside the unforgiving Broken Bridge)
To enter North Korea
We walked at random to a nearby height
Through the park of Jianling Shan
Which, crowned by a pagoda, a mighty sentinel,
Overlooked both town and river
And the unknown country on the other side.
It was there I found you, all alone
In the rusted cage, pacing to and fro,
Surrounded by more cages, empty,
Orphaned of their former captives;
Unconscious, it seemed,
Of the jaded stares of the adults;
Of the curious gaze of the children.
They told me confinement had maddened your mind,
Yet to me your eyes spoke of method,
And at each approach I glimpsed, I thought, in jungle green,
The reflected night-forests of space.
And as you continued to pace up and down,
Writing the symmetry into the book of your soul,
You recalled for me the cat-dog fosa,
Your rare and deathly ancestor,
Which stalks the seething, singing ferment
As it hunts the lemur and the tenrec
And conceals its innermost thoughts in stealth.
Suddenly I felt I understood
And wrote down then these fancies:
The energy poised in your rippling muscles and bristling fur
Is enough to break iron, so claims your adamant look.
If we could be so relentless in determination,
So forthright in daily perseverance,
There would be nothing a human could not do,
For faith is unconscious knowing and brooks no thinking.
The first instant they walked you in,
Before they freed the restraints;.
Before they locked the door;
Before they turned the key,
You turned, and knew then and there
That such a future could not be.
The above writers have either been previous members of the Minutemen or Vibe groups, or are current members or honorary members of the Firebird Writers' Group. Note that all work in all draft versions is copyrighted.
David Armstrong started his working life in a number of jobs – including warehouseman, postman, security guard, vaultkeeper, film technician, shopkeeper and importer - before becoming a freelance writer, a role which he believes needs as much experience of the world as possible. As such he contributed many non-fiction articles to various magazines and worked as a journalist abroad, publishing a book in one country that was pirated by the Mafia, before ‘settling down’ as a teacher of English Language and Literature in the UK. He set up extracurricular creative writing groups at Hellesdon High School, Norwich – the Minutemen and Vibe - in conjunction with graduate students at UEA, which met with pleasing results in producing published poets, short story writers and novelists from Hellesdon students, some of whom are represented on this site.. Since incurring health problems from extensive travelling (including contracting Legionnaire's Disease in North Korea) he has retired from full-time teaching and is currently finishing two books of travel poetry, early partial drafts of which can be found on this site. However, he is determined to visit Sri Lanka shortly and in the Spring to spend some time with the San bushmen of the Kalahari. Thanks to a testimonial from the Vibe Writers' Group he was appointed as a Poetry Society Trailblazer for 2020. Below are excerpts from various drafts of his work from his new book:
Notes on 'The Tiger'
Opening of 'Judas Jon' Draft 1