Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I know you are all very disappointed in me, and probably don't even look at this space anymore, except casually, out of habit, and then only for a few seconds. But I've been BUSY -- hip-deep in papers for grad school. Now I am only knee deep. Here's a poem.

The Aggressive Squirrels of Roosevelt Island

we wear special lenses to see what lurks underneath the oak leaves

we have pulled our hair back tightly with leather bands -- they can nest anywhere

we are here to capture the reason

we have tweezers, chloroform
glass jars the size of a head
a gold pen for notation
a green one for classification

we watch our ankles

we keep our bags closed at all times

we do not sit underneath the inviting trees to rest

we use hip waders or heavy rubber boots and socks infused
with a tincture of iodine

we do not touch peanut butter for at least a week before entering the island

at dusk, we try to remember Sheila, who was
dragged down a hole

we plunge forward, keeping our purpose always foremost in our minds

when in doubt, we jump into the river

we remember, as we sink, that the tails only look soft
and if they pause to lift an offering from our palm
the gentle brush of their tiny nails only lasts for a moment

we convince ourselves that moment is not sweet

without hesitation they will gnaw us anew
fill our skull with walnuts
toss our toe bones back and forth with their teeth

their infants are the size of our thumbs and not quite as soft
as our down comforter on the other island, the one we’re starting to forget

we have left behind our candy, our lavender deoderant
and the ones too weak too run

according to our guide books, one bite does not cause much scarring

we are not much afraid
we have practiced by running short distances very fast


Anonymous said...

This poem is really cute, no wait, I mean horrifying!

I like how you made sweet little squirrels menacing.

Christine E. Hamm, Poet/Professor/Painter said...

Thansk, Valerie. The squirrels REALLY are aggressive on Roosevelt Island. I had one break into my office on a regular basis. He didn't even run away when I'd come. He'd just sit on my desk and stare.

I never should have kept mixed nuts in my desk drawer.