Folktale by Elizabeth Bodi

A woman curls inside
the warm belly of a tiger, eaten
for refusing a toll of two sticky rice cakes.
Too greedy, the tiger is now
on its way to the woman’s house
where her two children play.

My mom comes home one day from a fortuneteller’s. I imagine purple turbans and tarot cards, but there was only an old Asian woman in her living room with a perm and culottes. She reads my mother’s palm and tells her that she’ll be rich, healthy, et cetera.

They deny the tiger entrance,
though it claims to be their
mother. Undeterred, the tiger paints
its paw white with rice powder,
to fool them; they are skeptical
of whether or not it belongs.

In kindergarten, my best friend tells me to be a ballerina. In first grade, I say I want to be a writer. When she asks me why, I tell her because I’m a liar.

This is when they let the tiger with its
mother-belly in.

The fortuneteller says my father will cheat on her. Even though she knows this is ridiculous, she tells him in a tone that is tinted slightly with fear. Even though I know this is ridiculous, I already feel sympathy for my mother.

The stars take pity on the children
and throw down sturdy rope ladders.
They climb to the sky –
one becomes the sun, the other the moon.
The tiger is also given a ladder, but
it is frayed and weak. He and the mother fall
to the earth, bloodying a millet field.

Mom used to tell me stories that bewildered me until I realized they were not hers. The only tigers she had seen were at the zoo. Sometimes, we are both liars.

Elizabeth Bodi is an English adjunct at Northern Virginia Community College and a recent George Mason University poetry MFA graduate. She currently lives in Northern Virginia. Her work can be seen in Booth, Cobalt, Painted Bride Quarterly, and is forthcoming in Sou’Wester.

The meal she always hungers for is a huge, hot bowl of oxtail soup with white rice and a nice spattering of coarse salt: simple, savory, perfect.

Back to Issue 4: Hungry Things

Leave a Reply