Ground Squirrels


It’s not the compulsive masturbator,
pawing at his fly in the train’s back row,
that makes me think of them. Not the tunnel
we blast through. Not even that bleary blur,
once the dark is done. It’s the acid smell
of brakes, coupled with a sunset more raw

than any I’ve seen (this particulate
in the air, the Camp Fire up north), that brings
them to mind. Just like always, I woke up
at dawn. The sprinklers disarticulated,
retreated to their plastic sheaths. My pup,
Gus, stretched, salivating for that morning’s

round of fetch. Last night’s artificial rains
bogged the turf. The varmints worked to brace
their waterlogged ceilings, pushing pellets
until the mole holes were, again, mountains.
Then, the uniformed men unleashed hell. Blitz?
No, honey. Piped through a garden hose. Face

to face, Gus saw me watch their bunkers greened,
their cloisters gassed to kingdom come. The sun
recoiled, screened by smoke, and I couldn’t not look
them up—a catchall for the whole tribe: ground
squirrel (in the old tongue, all animals once took
the epithet deer, though naturally one

kind could still be discerned from the other).
The next day the death meadow reeked and I
felt bits of airborne bone and scraps of hide
lodge deep in my lungs. Oh, won’t you lie here
darling whistlepigs, here, curled at my side?
Let us compare our costs below the cyan sky.

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