Opossum, a tribute to Elizabeth Bishop.

Out from the woods
tired and dragging
through rotted leaves and
compost filled with thick, orange,
pulp covered pumpkin seeds,
rotten potatoes, lettuce,
and peaches grown heavier fuzz now,
gray green flannel that sticks to fur
and through high grown grass
dragging its muddy hide
across possum’s miles
onto my porch
where I reach for the knob
but stop to tell my mother
that the dog must stay in.
I cannot shout why,
and she yells,
so I insist that she come
and look
and see this thing.
This hissing, writhing, rabidly dying,
With sharp black eyes,
tiny sparkling straight-pin-heads
set bulbous and slick
at the base of grimacing snout,
unfurling a snarling banner
of sharp and snaggled ivory bone
that would rip the dogs cheek
and coat it’s pelt in gore.
She looks at it’s miserable form and sighs
at the propriety of its choosing us.
We hang heavy with animal magnetism
she thinks
and sighs again
turning to my father,
telling him to get a box.
“A thick one,” she says,
“no not a laundry basket.”
We don’t want to watch it.
“Call the animal control people,
they’ll know what to do.”
We can’t have it here
this thing
dying on our porch,
waiting to kill the dog
and maybe the children.
He brings her a heavy
grease-stained brown one
and puts it out on the porch,
over the animal.
It quivers in the dark now
and my dog sniffs around the edges,
pawing at the wood underneath
trying to get in.
Trying to see what new toy
we’ve brought into the house.
Maybe this time
he can eat it.

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