Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The porcupine is tolerant

Not, perhaps
the smartest thing
I've ever done
in a lifetime of
comparably questionable
impulses.

Nevertheless
I've shinnied up the trunk
and we now share
respective crotches
of this young
riverbottom cottonwood
my back leaned
against smooth green bark
as a calm looking porcupine
crouched comfortably
on another branch
four feet away
regards me inscrutably
small black myopic eyes
tucked into a snubbed face.

I know I should be warier.
As it is, I take care
to make no sudden moves.
He passingly resembles
someone's pet guinea pig
but is a far larger rodent
thirty inches long
less that spiky tail
and clad in thousands
of five inch barbed quills
any one of which
would be painful
imbedded in my flesh
if he decides
he doesn't like
a soft skinned
stranger.

I have seen
more than one dog
miscalculating
in the way of all dogs
braving an
exploratory lunge
at some cousin
of my new companion
and being bested fast
by an surprising snoutful
of redhot needles.

But
after a contemplative pause
the porcupine is tolerant
deciding I'm no threat
or that he can handle me
if I try to become one
and turns back to
his measured meal.

To my early eye he seems
hunched and clumsy
but soon I begin
to understand
a deliberate grace
of movement
barbed quills
clacking lightly
low against him
as he navigates his branch
reaching out imperturbably
with long dark claws
to snag the choicest tender
green shoots and buds
into his orbit
chiselling out bites with
long orange buck teeth
chewing loudly
and grunting softly once.

We spend the afternoon
six feet in the air
I coming no closer
to knowing what he thinks
and he giving small notice
to me
as I watch sunlight
on water
through leafing poplar
his contented chewing
a rhythmic background
to my random daydreams.

The afternoon cools
and I with another world
to return to
slide back down the tree.
The porcupine pauses
to watch me a moment
meeting my eyes
when I stand once more
beneath his tree
then grunts softly again
turns back to his buds and shoots
and continues chewing.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Now, coyote, I fail to see how a Porcupine didn't find a tree-climbing canine a threat! Did you really do this, or did you just want to do it? Or perhaps you took human form to do it?

C said...

Noni, perhaps Mr. Quill knows that coyotes have far more common sense than mere canines...:)

Fingers said...

There are moments when you look at someone and your eyes meet. In that moment, there is an understanding. And it doesn't matter what creature you're looking at. Your poem talks about that silent understanding.

But tell me one thing, I'm curious, as Nonny is too, but i want to know, why'd you climb the tree and sit six feet up,in the first place?

coyote said...

Oh, I did it all right. I thought the first stanza made it clear that it probably wasn't one of my better ideas. But c'mon! Sitting in a tree with a porcupine, ignoring each other? How cool is that?

Laban T Walker said...

it's cool...the whole thing is cool...up a tree to coexist with another creature (no equal) with the added benefit of being in that environment...tree, sunlight...water

whaa, i wanna porcupine tree too

coyote said...

Then be very careful about the way you select your tree, and your procupine.

Time, perhaps, for that time-honoured caveat: Don't try this at home...