Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel

Obsequious. You come begging
outside my screen. Sidelong
you stare all morning.
I know that greeting.
It’s the same as mine.

You can’t make up your flimsy mind.
Do you like the world better—
distant or direct? Little Beckett
shifting chicles from one nervous cheek
to the other, will you never seek more

than safe passage? If I so much as breathe,
you convulse like water on hot grease.
Relax, no one cares about you.
If you left the territory next Friday
for good, there’d be no party.

That’s the privilege of being discreet.
You know the warm dens,
the sound of your solitary beat
against the walls,
and those strawberries

ripening under my porch,
the ones no hand can reach?
They’re yours—
deep maroon, reclusive,
they smell so sweet.

Sandra Alcosser
from her book Except By Nature
Graywolf Press, 1998
Used by permission of the poet.

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