for Caroline Merrill
The woodchuck’s paw prints led to the hole under
our house in Maine. We saw him sometimes
in summer: a bowling ball of brown fur, rolling
across the backyard, grown fat on our flowers.
He ate the heads off the orange poppies,
then lay on his back as if having opium dreams.
At first, I hated him as I hated his cousins,
the fat squirrels who swung from the bird feeder,
gobbling seeds meant for the chickadees. Yet,
after a few years, I grew fond of our woodchuck,
imagined him as a character in a children’s book;
an elderly bachelor in a waistcoat.
Then the invasion came: a second woodchuck,
younger, more vigorous. From my window, I saw
them circle each other on the patio, paws up,
shadowboxing. After a tense few minutes,
the upstart scurried into the neighbors’ yard, the old
bachelor waddled away, with affected casualness.
I couldn’t tell then who had won. Later, the young
woodchuck moved his family in beneath our porch.
It reminded me of gentrification where new tenants
displace people who have lived in a neighborhood
for generations. We never saw the old woodchuck
again and wondered what became of him.
Following a long career as an attorney, Dana Robbins earned an MFA from the Stonecoast Writers Program of the University of Southern Maine. Her two books of poetry, The Left Side of My Life, and After the Parade were published by Moon Pie Press of Westbrook Maine. Her poetry has placed in the Anna Davidson Contest for Jewish Poetry and been featured in Poetica Magazine. Her poem, To My Daughter Teaching Science was presented by Garrison Keillor on the Writers Almanac.
[image: woodchuck | Abigail Lynn]