Wednesday, April 21, 2010

and after that

Battleground Backyard. Territorial Dispute. Mission: Apparently impossible.

His name is Legion.

Reconnaissance: He skitters through the bushes. He stomachs along the bricks. Twitch, twitch--the searching nose; itch, itch--the flea-bit hide. Behold the suspended pagoda of millet and thistle.

Action: He leaps from wall to rail, deftly lands--an artistry of sinew. He dares the skinny chain--A rodent Wallenda. Now, quick, quick, before discovery, headfirst into the spill of seeds. Engorge! HA ha! Look at me now. Silly birds, feeders are for squirrels.

Retreat: He raises his head, sniffs the air. Something clicking, someone watching. From black ball-bearing eyes, he sees a human--blond, bespectacled, burly of beard. His enemy. Erstwhile tyrant, lover of birds. He hops to the wall and feigns innocence. Nothing doing. The human fires a pellet. Ha ha! He misses. I'll just scootch behind some leaves and wait the ninny out. The human fires again. Though painless, the pellet pelts him in the haunches--more insult than injury. He bounds into the bushes. To recuperate, regroup, and re-engage.

He'll be back. And back. And back. His name is Legion.

Here is a poem from my thesis loosely based on events from my childhood. In light of the previous description of my battle with the squirrel (who for the most part is adorable and to be admired for his perseverance), the poem will seem quite humorous (and it is) but it is also a conceit for lost innocence.

And After That the Squirrels

And after that . . . and after that . . .
Who knows how far the Flume
Has meanwhile purged its silt and sediment.

My uncle gave a BB gun
To my big brother on
His thirteenth birthday. Mother pitched a fit.

She made us swear we’d only shoot
The cola cans and bull’s-
Eyed cardboard--never living, breathing souls.

We called the creek a river in
Those days. Why not? It seemed
Big enough—plenty wide and boisterous.

We gathered empty bottles—swigs
Of backwashed beer poured out—
From underneath the teenager’s tree-fort

And sent them bobbing down the stream.
My brother ran along
The red-clay banks, pump-click, pump-click, BBs

Whiz-plunking the water beside
The kayaking bottle.
I slipped and slid behind him, begging for

A turn. One more, hold on, one more,
He said, like I believed
In that. At last he lucked-out and the glass

Went under, cracked and spiraling.
When we got to the top
Of Dead-Man’s Flume again, he offered me

The gun. Don’t trip and shoot your face,
He said, like I was some
Buffoon. He flung another bottle high

Into the air but when it splashed
It went open-end first
And sunk without a fight. I pitched a fit.

Then a rustle from the brier shut
Me up and, thrilled, I drew
A bead. I pumped and clicked and the BB,

Whiz-thwuck, purchased in the darkness.
Our bare-arms pricked by thorns,
We parted the twisted thicket and gaped.

A cowbird still clinging, up-side-
Down like a sleeping bat,
Onto a sapling branch was bleeding square

Between its black body and brown
Breast. Drip-drip-dripping like
The slow, proverbial faucet at night.

To keep from going home to face
My mother’s knowing frown,
We chased another bottle down the stream.

In doing so, I noticed that
The river was a creek.
And after that the squirrels were good as dead.

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