The squirrel you kill in jest, dies in earnest. Henry David Thoreau
The one with the blonde tail, we called Marilyn,
and the sherry brown raiding the bird feeder,
Emily, and the great gray one Walt,
and that handsome ebony living in the oak
Prince, and we liked them, come, we said,
cheep your crafty songs of chaos.
And we laughed at the way they plucked
our marigolds from our planters
and tossed our geraniums on the porch.
Little hooligans, we said, excusing them
as parents excuse children, the inevitably chipped
pitcher, the broken pot. Wasn’t it just their version
of crucifixes in urine, we understood the necessity
for artistic impulse, and, yes, we believed in nature too,
that it should be allowed its freedom,
not like our neighbors who were complaining
that the squirrels’ constant jeering unnerved
the poodles and Pekinese, who were stink-bombing
the riffraff from their attics and who were
secretly buying shotguns to shoot them. Look, we said,
have mercy on those big-tailed rats, as you call them,
they’ve made their way from Princeton
to diversify the gene pool, what you are seeing
is what nature does to survive, even here,
among all our glitz and pavement.
And look at them, crazily chasing each other,
isn’t that the playful seriousness of Plato
made manifest? Philosophy itself? Don’t we need this?
Tolerance. And didn’t we ourselves plant those oaks
that that are now dropping that feast of acorns,
the plentitude that brought them here
and if they don’t eat them, who? And aren’t they
just successful, like us? And, yes,
we even defended the little old lady
who added to their numbers by putting out peanuts
until they would accept them from her hand.
Take eat, this is for you. Can’t you see,
we said, how lonely she is, a god.
But then those damn rodents figured out how
to defeat the netting that kept the blue jays and robins
from plundering our blueberries and ate them all, every single globe,
all that we too had been seeking to preserve for ourselves.