It is, rather, the tiger of my dreams, flat and ornamental, yet snickering at me, and I just don't know what's so damn funny. There is something in a way cats recline. That position which is so stately, so cozy, as if the cat is privy to some secret of how the world works. Oh, that snicker, how it taunts me even in my sleep. Especially in my sleep, actually, for my dreams are portals to terrible lands, where giants lurk and days are longer than snakes.
The sloth is who I'd rather be. He has disguised himself in plain view as the tiger's reflection. Eveyone is so distracted by thirst and the tiger's stately posture and pretty swirls that they don't notice the sloth. Quietly he extends his tongue and pulls forward to lick the dew off a saucy leaf.
Addendum: When I contacted Ellen Shipley to get permission to write about and post this image, she added this:
I don't know exactly what you plan to say about the print, but I don't know if you saw in a later post that the woman it was made for died of the Swine flu a short while later. She was a friend and co-worker, and that year's Christmas card had an homage to her: she is the "Kitty" sleeping on the hearth.