It’s hopeless how she loves this life.
The gray squirrel digs a small moon’s
worth of craters in the yard.
Some she fills, some leaves open.
I’ve seen her work a walnut, still green,
round and round, shaving the surface
down to the meat. It moves in her claws
like a planet, or a bead
bigger and quicker than worry.
By love, I mean she uses the day
down to the last morsel of light– digs, barks,
insults the crow, wields
and lashes her tail like a glorified whip.
There’s a charge in her, wild volts.
A livid motion, leaping from red pine
to hackberry, the single forepaw catching first,
swinging under, then over, then onto
the branch. She’s a circus
when she takes to the power lines,
racing the live wire above the lowly
addresses. She’s a spiral of serious sleep
in the high hollow of the pin oak.
By love, I mean filling herself
with small right intentions. By life,
I mean she looks at you from the railings.
A kind of dare is in her, her tail curled
like a bass clef, or mutant fern.
You won’t catch her. She’s scrolling
from scent to sound to slightest motion.
However the light moves
might be ruin, or rich enough to rob.
The way she ransacks, hoards, loses,
lashes, bluffs the crouched cat,
the unleashed dog, her death,
a dozen times a day, is what I mean
by hopeless how she loves this life.
Max Garland is a former poet laureate of the State of Wisconsin. His book, The Word We Used for It, from which this poem is taken, is available at The Local Store and elsewhere. More by from Max.