The chipmunk is not as ignobly brazen as the squirrel—
not the crazed mad dasher crossing the roadway, then
turning around, with its tail a raised question mark in
the air, always twitching, as the squirrel speeds beneath
the wheels of the moving car. The chipmunk is not as
imprudent or daft as the squirrel, is not at all maniacal, but
behaves more in keeping with an athlete, its white racing
stripes emblazoned on either side of its upper back,
intimating speed, although not in the squirrel’s mindlessly
frenzied fashion, but more in the way of a sprinter, with
the finish line of the other side of the road its inevitable
destination, a veritable cross-road dash, acorn in mouth,
its four feet engaged in the very definition of what
the word bolt means. However, as much as squirrels
may be fleet they are not known for being friendly, such
impertinent creatures as they are, muttering their harsh
chatter, lunatic interlopers always setting limits that exhibit
a boundless temerity. Whereas, a chipmunk I chanced
upon hiking Mount Lafayette, as I stopped mid-mountain
for a rest, volunteered to join me in a snack of trail mix,
tame enough to eat some right out of my outstretched hand,
filling its mouth at various intervals until the pouches
in its cheeks bulged, and upon surfeit it returned to its hole
dug into the earth beneath white pine, only to emerge again
for more peanuts and raisins with which it could
line its burrow for leaner times, whom native Americans
called the one who descends trees headlong, whose
nicknames include steward and housekeeper—
how we gamboled that summer day, Tamias striatus,
both of us bartering trust, having befriended one another.
THE RHODE ISLAND CAT THAT KNOWS
Two-year-old Oscar has grown up
on the dementia unit of a Nursing Home.
He wins the platinum loyalty award
where as most dogs only receive the gold.
Dr. Joan Teno of Brown University bows
not only to Oscar’s perfect record
in death predictions
2-4 hours before its arrival,
(more accurate than hers),
but to his steadfast companionship,
remaining at the dying patient’s bedside.
After twenty-five such vigils
nurses now call relatives
when Oscar makes his final visit.
As if that were not enough,
Oscar is gorgeous.
IT’S ALL ABOUT WHO YOUR FRIENDS ARE
Cows in the distance,
small as crows,
go unnoticed by this calf
smelling mother’s breath.
Mom’s white eyelashes
fringe calm eyes.
She’s as curious about me
as I am about her.
She lets me talk
and stand close to her calf.
This trusting mom
must be friends
with the farmer.
Your face watched me
Your eyes of a lonely girl
side after side
looking over one shoulder then the other
to draw me from the basin within the tree
that hid your children
When you left the branch
it swayed so little
I wondered if I had seen you at all
then your gaze locked mine
from another part of the forest
tearing my gaze again
from the dark eyes
of your young ones
Now your tree seems empty
Its opening a mouth twisted
in a laugh
the autumn leaves covering that mouth
like the palms
of a hundred hands
No young ones
No bones or ruffled snags of fur fallen
beneath your ledge
Nothing but sanddust
I want to see you
I want to hear you calling
in the night
That silken whisper
Even if it is not me you call
Even if it is me
and the night grows short
—Kelley Jean White
All flowers live up to their names
an eponymous breed claiming colors, scent and heart
warriors with spears rising in the field
able to bring us to our knees
reminding us of forgotten dreams
those small hidden places like shadows
under the dark leaves
surrender written on the wings of a moth
I loved the larkspur before I had ever seen one
one word conjuring another world and
I lived in both
the wildflower meadow sits in the sun
a disdainful garden needing no man
weaving spells and humming the land
all we can offer is
the glorious names.
With my left hand on her shoulder, my right sliding
across her back, I take in the smell of horse, pushing
my nose into her hair, rubbing against her until she leans
into me as if she wants to fall asleep inside the love.
Stroking and stroking until her coat takes on the sheen
of newly-minted light. Measuring the distance inside a wish
to be one with horse and landscape, the way the sky feels
when I lift my hands, stretch my arms apart to split the clouds
and know a horse is the fragile piece of God, the divine
bit of flesh that fell to earth with us, took on the definite
bones of being mortal to be what we cannot be, strong where
we are weak, weak where we are strong, so we become
the one thing when I slide my hand over her back and press
my cheek to hers, warm and giving as the morning sun.
—Constance Rowell Mastores
Where the Tree Fell
Watch the water as it winds
Its way over root, a tide
That clasped, unclasped, wound, rewound,
Drenching leavage, loam. Alone
This tree learned by rote the right
To root. Now broken branch, bough,
Trunk and terminus unknot.
Wild west winds brought this tree low,
As low as earth would allow.
Now wind blows where it is not.
Broken where it used to bow,
As tangled as words I write,
Giving to the living a loan
That opens earth, a raw wound
Where the tree roots were untied.
Roots too shallow for west winds.
Tonight we shadowed the moon. Well, she’s been
Our parasol, darkening our doorway
Only too often. Now it’s her turn again
To back offstage into obscurity, play
Her part, fill her ashen plains, empty seas,
With earthdark. Be terrified. Draw your shade,
Moon. Hide in the earth’s focussed cone that frees
You from the spotlight for these moments. Fade
To a shadow of yourself. Be dark there
As we here, as we here block the glow of
Starshine that’s your customary wear,
The glamour of chastity, madness, love.
Stardom eludes you now but only through
This brief eclipse. No reflection on you.
After the Earthquake
When the earth spoke it didn’t mumble.
It groaned and growled. And the two firs whipped
Branches hard against the house. I slipped
To one knee, heard the backyard grumble,
Shiver, shake, snatch at its compost quilt
With dirty fingers, settling back to
Unmade beds where gardens might come true.
The dog barked. Our confidence was spilt
Out on the ground. Stone bones sifted through
The meat of mud and loam, sandy glands
Swelled with sweat. The earth here raised soiled hands
To heaven, stirred in its bed, and you
And I trembled too. Now how can we keep
Our covenant with certainty and sleep?