V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics





The opossum that used to live in the thorny tangle
of wild roses is dead this winter; I found his body
as the snow melted, the same March that the Comet Hyakutake
passed us by.  I've been out these clear nights looking
at its smudgy brightness as it travels across
the constellations, Virgo to Boötes to the Big Dipper
and the little one.  Now it's just west of Cassiopeia,
in Perseus.  I try to imagine 20,000 years ago, the last
time it came by, when we were living in skins and caves,
seeing it trail its luminous tail across the known patterns,
the atavistic shiver.  When I take my nightly walk, I fix
on the comet around every bend in the road.  Each night, it
has moved one notch west.  Every day when I walk the dog,
the opossum's fur has eroded a little more, bone showing
through, the teeth set in a primitive snarl.  He came to the
back door one winter, but only one, and ate the scraps
of meat and fat set out for the birds.  One night, he curled
up in the wheelbarrow, hissed when we came too close.
Now he diminishes daily, as insects and weather
do their work, until only a few clumps of fur remain,
and meadow rue and lady's bedstraw begin to cover the bones.
Last night, looking up at the inky blackness, I felt myself
shrink, smaller than the smallest bones in the opossum's tail,
and then I found the comet one last time.  It seemed to be fixed
in the firmament, a nebulous white light in the western sky,
but was, like this transient world, rapidly drifting away.

© by Barbara Crooker


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