Tuesday, October 27, 2009

“The Squirrel”

[Here’s the next poem from our Poetic Mystery Guest, B.N. Please do enjoy!]

The Squirrel

For a week
a squirrel has been
trapped in the attic. He moves
on weak hind legs like a voice
between the walls
and the beams. I find his
hairs caught by the places
he thought: escape.

In the bedroom we rise
and fall
to each other
like small gusts of wind
slamming doors. This way
we suggest passions
the way the mirror imitates
companionship. The reflection
of the flower in the flower
that opens onto the flower, the
yellow center.

We should be required to live once
Like the animals full of animal hours
And that strange craftiness—
Always the will to live.
By now the squirrel
is home or an afterthought.

© to the author 1983-2009

This poem previously appeared in the
Memphis State Review


  1. What a deeply 'disturbing' poem. It disturbs the way a stone dropped into water disturbs the calm surface. Once you get past the initial deeply bothersome idea of an animal trapped in the attic and stop wondering whether they left it water, or opened the windows or all manner of other things and just accepted the fact of it and went on it was botersome on any number of other levels, as all things that make you think necessarily are. The idea of going through the motions in life - suggesting passions on whatever level, the way the mirror imitates companionship - and then the solution, and whether it would be possible to live that way without actually spending a life as squirrel. This is beautifully evocative. Suggesting without ever saying - "like small gusts of wind slamming doors."

  2. I like this poem, John.I wonder who BN is?

    This was my favourite bit

    'He moves
    on weak hind legs like a voice
    between the walls
    and the beams. I find his
    hairs caught by the places
    he thought: escape.'

    Brilliant.Thanks for posting this John,I'll check back to see who the mystery person is?As an afterthough I wonder could people tell if it was a man or a woman that wrote it? At first I thought man,then woman,now I couldn't say!

  3. "This way
    we suggest passions"
    That's very sad, isn't it? There's a real sense of futility to this poem for me. I suppose that's the whole point, isn't it?

    Oh, and the "yellow center" - the coward at heart.

    The more I read it, the better I like it.

  4. This poem is absolutely wonderful that takes one small event and extrapolates to a relationship and life itself. I think that is what makes good poetry, or at least it's the poetry that appeals to me on the deepest level. Whoever your poet may be, I celebrate him or her.

  5. Hi Mairi & TFE & Karen & Kat:

    Thanks to you all for your enthusiasm about this poem. I've liked this particular poem for many years myself.

    As far as the identity of B.N. goes, I can tell you that B.N. is a woman & that she was a fellow grad student at UVA with me in the mid 80s. The poems I'll be posting at least for the foreseeable future are older work, some (like this one) dating back to the mid 80s. B.N. still writes, & still writes very well. For complicated but very legitimate & even in a sense "serious" reasons, she doesn't want her named used. I can tell you that she is not a well-known writer (tho in my opinion she should be).

    Thanks again for your enthusiasm!

  6. is everyone looking for a way out in this poem?

    and too weak or complacent to find it?


  7. Earlier today, I popped in here for a moment, read The Squirrel, started to comment -- and had to rush off. All afternoon, my mind kept coming back to the voice between the walls and the beams, the strange craftiness -- Wow. This is a good poem.

  8. Hi Rene & Sandra:

    Rene: Looking for a way out at least! Thanks for stopping by.

    Sandra: Yes-- for my money this is a "wow" poem.

  9. Wonderful poem. At the end the squirrel's will to escape (to live) seems to symbolize human nature when it feels trapped into the everyday vanity.
    I don't know if you like Thomas Hardy Poetry. I find it brilliant.

  10. Hi Don Michael: Glad you enjoyed this. I do like Hardy's poetry very well.


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