Laura Rodley’s “Groundhog”

by Laura Rodley

The groundhog’s fur is silver, 
silkily rippling in the wind
as she chomps ends of grasses, 
clover, not yet have I seen her eat 
anything that causes consternation;
she has scoured the walking path festooned
with acorns that have split their hulls,
pink with the promise of planting, 
each one replicated in the exact
image of its bearing tree.  
Today I found her burrow.
Unashamedly she led me to it
by pulling on plastic sheeting 
that has held rich black compost for two years, 
bought just before my husband Jim’s 
heart attack, still waiting to be employed,
languishing amidst the raspberry
canes.  The groundhog pulled aside
the blue woven plastic tarp 
with her thick incisors, and carried 
leaves in its mouth below it.
Unwilling to have her babies lined
with plastic threads, I shoveled 
away this eyesore, rolled up the plastic,
crooning to her, don’t worry, it won’t 
take me long, at least an hour.
I wondered if she had another entrance
and I might find her behind me,
gnarling, or gnashing her fine 
incisors, her grinding molars; I wore
thick lined rubber boots in case
of a sideways or hidden attack,
but no, she had seen me coming
just as I had seen her, and veered
straight back into her burrow.
Someone else would take a hose,
drown her out. But she has been 
here through the hardest years
I have ever known, and asked 
for nothing but to left alone,
though her head’s up, showing she’s aware 
when I open the door.  She has not
eaten anything I cannot part with,
and if she’s eaten the violet buds,
I haven’t seen any evidence.
It’s only my dog’s ratting nose 
to the ground that alerts me that 
the groundhog has been through.  
Happy Birthday I said to the kits,
whenever they may be born.  
When the groundhog’s had her fill, 
found our property lacking,
she walks down the road,
finds another lair.
Maybe this year there will
be a parade that no one sees
of mama leading her silver balls
plump and rolly, invisible. 

* Writing Prompt: A fox, an owl, or crow appear nearby while you drive, or a mouse, skunk, possum, horse, cat, or dog, appear as you are walking. What unexpected gifts might they be bringing you? What could they teach you about appreciating what you have, or how to adapt to survive, and not just survive, but survive well? What warmth do your feathers or fur bring you? What joys? The ability to fly?

Laura Rodley is a Pushcart Prize winner, quintuple Pushcart Prize nominee, and quintuple Best of Net nominee. Her latest books include Turn Left at Normal (Big Table Publishing, 2017) and Counter Point (Prolific Press, 2018) and As You Write It, Lucky 7 (Levellers Press, 2021).