Squirrel

1All around him November rain
2hisses like a thousand snakes -- around him
3and on him and almost through him until
4he is little more than a knotted skein
5of sodden hair.
6It is late November and life has narrowed
7(as rain ices the leafless branches)
8to three small circles. Fear freezes
9two that are eyes, but the third whirls
10like a prayer wheel.
11The third circle is the most human:
12handlike, split into fingery tendrils,
13forepaws gnarled as by arthritis
14are spinning an acorn cradled where
15teeth can scrape it.
16He could be opening a jar,
17the even swivel following a thread --
18except that this thread never ends:
19turning and turning, the acorn's lid
20will not unscrew.
21What if he could break the seal
22and read, as in tea leaves, the pattern of an end
23congealed in his burrow among tree roots,
24or spell his entrails on some road
25in senseless translation?
26Would knowledge of an end (the snake's
27linear gift) trip the light leaper
28of kinder seasons, trap him spellbound
29in an all-too-human winter, our strait
30of inland ice?
31His ignorance of neverland
32is freedom from a frozen world;
33the tale he spins, because unfinished,
34more complete than ours; his tongue
35all present tense.
Publication Notes: 
Morning Watch (Montreal: Véhicule Press, 1995): 91.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire