Monday, August 23, 2021

Groundhog by Ellen Bryant Voigt


not unlike otters which we love frolicking
floating on their backs like truant boys unwrapping lunch
same sleek brown pelt some overtones of gray and rust
though groundhogs have no swimming hole and lunch
is rooted in the ground beneath short legs small feet
like a fat man’s odd diminutive loafers not
frolicking but scurrying layers of fat his coat
gleams as though wet shines chestnut sable darker
head and muzzle lower into the grass
a dark triangular face like the hog-nosed skunk another delicate
nose and not a snout doesn’t it matter what they’re called I like swine
which are smart and prefer to be clean using their snouts
to push their excrement to the side of the pen
but they have hairy skin not fur his fur
shimmers and ripples he never uproots the mother plant his teeth
I think are blunt squared off like a sheep’s if cornered does he
cower like sheep or bite like a sow with a litter is he ever
attacked he looks to me inedible he shares his acreage
with moles voles ravenous crows someone
thought up the names his other name is botched Algonquin
but yes he burrows beneath the barn where once a farmer
dried cordwood he scuttles there at speech cough laugh
at lawnmower swollen brook high wind he lifts his head
as Gandhi did small tilt to the side or stands erect
like a prairie dog or a circus dog but dogs don’t waddle like Mao
with a tiny tail he seems asexual like Gandhi like Jesus if Jesus
came back would he be vegetarian also pinko freako homo
in Vermont natives scornful of greyhounds from the city
self-appoint themselves woodchucks unkempt hairy macho
who would shoot on sight an actual fatso shy mild marmot radiant
as the hog-nosed skunk in the squirrel trap both cleaner than sheep
fur fluffy like a girl’s maybe he is a she it matters
what we’re called words shape the thought don’t say
rodent and ruin everything

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