The Not-Squirrel

The cat’s head dipped, then jerked
In a new direction,
From where nothing different ever comes:
Something else out there,
Just beyond the thinnest of screens
Separating us from them.

Not a squirrel this time. We know the squirrels,
We give them names. We know their cartoon days
Of sunny tumble and run, their early bedtimes.
“The squirrels have gone to bed,” we say.
The cat can nap when they’re around.
But it is too late for them now. The cat quivers.

Then from the big shadows a tiny one,
A sliver of true wild
Squeezed from the human dark:
Moving not like anything else, stop and start
Over and over, trembling into us,
And our world became Not-Squirrel.

I looked out at a place no longer the same,
Thinking it might be just the tip of a claw,
The searching nerve of something greater –
One vast Not-Squirrel flowing
Toward the fugitive darkness,
The last hidings left.

The cat’s tail swished a warning,
The Not-Squirrel vanished.
The next morning I heard a sound,
Someone shaking a sheet of tin: I looked up.
A great hawk flapping out of a pruned magnolia,
Hunting above some children at play.

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