Encounters with Mrs. Raccoon

Original Text: 
Collected Poems of Raymond Souster, Vol. 8: 1991-1993 (Ottawa: Oberon Press, 1999): 89-91. PS 8537 O87A17 Robarts Library
1Once I spotted her up on our roof
2and brought in the news, I should have known
3my wife would want to see for herself
4without wasting any more time talking,
5so I watched as she gingerly climbed
6ten rungs of our aluminum ladder
7to where the porch roof started,
8then peered intently through the rungs,
9and, as she told me minutes later,
10found those two deep brown saucers of eyes
11set above the black button of a nose
12staring back at her (from well underneath
13the slanting house-roof's overhang)
14with such an intensity it was no contest right away
15for Mrs. Raccoon, and all my wife could do
16was whisper a parting word or two,
17climb down, as she said, feeling compassionate
18even in her defeat.
19Now as I remount the same ladder
20before the day's darkness falls,
21I rehearse one final time
22my very well thought-out,
23very practical, humane plan.
24One: if she's not there I'll spread
26all around the corner where she likes to lie,
27then hope and pray she can't stand their lousy smell.
28Two: if she's still in her corner, won't budge
29when I poke my broom at her, I'll fetch the garden hose,
30struggle with it up the ladder, turn it on
31full force at the stubborn animal.
32But when I reach the roof's edge,
33peer over it as intently as my wife did
34not four short hours ago, I see I've barged in
35where I'm definitely not wanted at all --
36because at least three baby raccoons
37(much smaller saucers of eyes,
38miniature black-button noses),
39lie across her belly, sucking hungrily at what I imagine
40are juicy, endlessly milk-flowing teats.
41And the question comes immediately to mind
42for which I haven't any answer --
43what power do wild animals have
44to melt our strong, hard human hearts
45in the faintest stirring of an eyelid?
46Whatever the answer
47there's no living doubt
48that a fresh, new-born surge of understanding
49has swept all my hostility away.
50Next I back down the ladder slowly,
51shying openly away
52from an encounter I never desired,
53with a creature struggling here and now
54much the same as all of us creatures do --
55just trying to keep ourselves alive
56in a world forcing more and more people
57to leave the light, seek out the darkness,
58where they steal, deceive, survive by cunning,
59like the lady up on my roof,


25] moth-balls: a traditional repellent (but one that, in the editor's experience, does not work very well). Back to Line
60] Mother Courage: from Berthold Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children (1941), set in the Thirty Years' War, about a woman who prophesies the deaths of her three children. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
Running Out the Clock (1991)
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
Special Copyright: 

&#169; 1999 <i>Collected Poems of Raymond Souster, Vol. 8: 1991-1993</i> Oberon Press (from which written permission to reproduce must be obtained in advance).