Monday, May 21, 2007

What Would Eva Do?

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Sunday, when we were driving back to Buckhannon, I avoided a squirrel in the road. It was hunkering and darting beside another squirrel who had not been so lucky as to avoid a car. Actually it was pretty flat--it had not avoided a lot of cars. I had to avoid the skittish, befuddled, living one. I'm not one of those people who stops and helps box turtles across the road or who'll run into the ditch to avoid a bunny; but if weather conditions allow, I'll try to veer away or brake enough to avoid killing something.

I sometimes think we're like the couple in Green Acres--he's Eva Gabor, I'm Eddie Albert. I'm pretty adaptable. I like the options of cities: the venues, the anonymity, the restaurants, the shopping. At the same time I really love the space and quiet I have here. Sometimes it's grating, but overall it's a fair trade. We drove past people I knew and without thinking I'd point them out, oddly happy seeing them out running errands or whatever on a Sunday. Unlike Eddie A, I'd never ask Brian to relocate to an area like this--it'd drive him mad, I fear. But one of the things I'm gladdest for about this visit was that he got to be with me and some of my favorite people and see that part of my life.


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Last night before bed I heard a thumping and clanking on the front porch. I knew it wasn't my critters, because they were all inside, bedded down and sleeping. I went to the door and turned on the light and there, rattling about the kibble and water bowls (during the late spring and summer I leave a few bowls out for the cats and dogs, because they're outside as much they're in) was a sizeable possum. It lurched off the porch and ran its odd jerky run off through the ferns toward the meadows. Hideous little beasts. I'll start bringing the kibble in at night because I don't want repeat visits.

Every time I see a possum I think of Gerald Stern's "Behaving Like a Jew" from Lucky Life.

Behaving Like A Jew

When I got there the dead opossum looked like
an enormous baby sleeping on the road.
It took me only a few seconds – just
seeing him there – with the hole in his back
and the wind blowing through his hair
to get back again into my animal sorrow.
I am sick of the country, the bloodstained
bumpers, the stiff hairs sticking out of the grilles,
the slimy highways, the heavy birds
refusing to move;
I am sick of the spirit of Lindbergh over everything,
that joy in death, that philosophical
understanding of carnage, that
concentration on the species.
--- I am going to be unappeased at the opossum’s death.
I am going to behave like a Jew
and touch his face, and stare into his eyes,
and pull him off the road.
I am not going to stand in a wet ditch

with the Toyotas and the Chevies passing over me
at sixty miles an hour
and praise the beauty and the balance
and lose myself in the immortal lifestream
when my hands are still a little shaky
from his stiffness and his bulk
and my eyes are still weak and misty
from his round belly and his curved fingers
and his black whiskers and his little dancing feet.


Keith Woodruff said...

Hey, great post RJ and welcome back.

I love this Stern poem - all the poems in his road kill suite as I like to call them. Damn they're cute ...'possums' - their weepy wet little eyes.

By the way, To a Poet is wonderful, thank you for sending it my way.

RJGibson said...

Keith--Thanks. It was nice to spend a few days away from Blogistan.

I love those poems of Stern's as well. I was torn about publishing this one or one of Larry Levis'--since I do think of Stern more in terms of "possum poems" I thought this was the way to go.

Thanks--it's one that I'm fond of. I'm still trying to figure out how to make it work and live up to that initial image.