Paper Tygers

by JAMIE CUNNINGHAM | 2nd Place, student poetry contest


Once upon a time there was a paper girl
Who dreamed paper dreams and lived in a paper world.
The paper girl was beautiful, with hair like liquid gold;
Her lips a silk red ribbon twisted into a bow.
Her eyes were drops of ocean, still waters vast and deep;
As blue as polished sapphire; the secrets they must keep.
She lived in a paper castle and enjoyed her parents’ favor,
For the girl was a princess—at least she was on paper!
One day a son of the Big House rose up to wage his claim.
He sought the paper title of King before his name.
He overthrew the royals and stole the paper crown,
Then torched the paper castle and burned it to the ground.
But the paper girl was clever and slipped out into the night
And she ran and ran and ran some more until the morning light.
She came upon a paper house and pondered what to do
When she saw there was a boy inside—and he was paper, too!
Perhaps he could assist, she thought. His help she did implore.
“I would,” said he. “But in this house, there is no paper door.”
She paced around in circles, her mind a crumpled blur.
No answers could she fathom, until a thought occurred.
She reached into her pocket and pulled a crayon from inside,
Then on the paper house she drew a doorway tall and wide.
The boy came from his prison, then crawled across the earth.
“No one has drawn my legs,” he cried. He’d been crippled since his birth.
The paper girl took pity and drew him legs of steel,
And told him of her troubles as her magic crayon healed.
He swore that he would help her find her way back home,
Defeat the evil son and regain the paper throne.
So she drew two paper tygers and they rode them through the night;
Two little paper warriors putting wrong back to right.
Now the evil son had drawn a new castle on the hill,
But the paper girl was fearless—and her tygers craved a meal!
They chased the son and trapped him down among the stones,
They tore him to confetti and feasted on his bones.
And then the paper princess became a paper Queen.
She kissed the paper boy and made him paper King.
The love they gave each other was drawn upon their hearts,
And their paper realm was happy as they made a brand new start.
Now their love was more than paper, for the legend tells it so,
But that is all I’ll tell you, because that is all I know.


Jamie Cunningham is a Cherokee tribal member (wolf clan) and the author of Collapse of Chaos and Broken Parachutes, a collection of his short stories. His short fiction has appeared in such literary journals as Confrontation and The Iconoclast. He is also an accomplished guitarist and musician, playing on stages across the Midwest and appearing on a dozen albums over the years, and is a skilled portrait artist and graphic designer, as well. Alicuius mens in scriptis spirat.

Born in Manhattan in 1971, Joe O’Shansky came out the same year as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Straw Dogs, and Shaft. Despite no visible means, and being six years old, his first movie in a theater was Star Wars. His second was Saturday Night Fever. After moving to Tulsa he discovered Siskel and Ebert. And that was it. Decades later he became a film and pop culture critic for Urban Tulsa Weekly and eventually The Tulsa Voice, as well as contributing to This Land Press and Root Tulsa. He currently drinks, cooks, and eats with his best friends.