Impasse with a Walnut
Shuffling through the damp
leaf litter, I look more down
than ahead. Scattered
walnuts, intact and in pieces.
I pick up an empty half-husk,
the nutmeat settling, I imagine,
into the belly of the squirrel
taking stock from a branch
overhead. The shell surface,
sinuously crinkled, resembles
a rough netsuke carving
of a woman in a kimono
turning her back to me.
Flipping the nut over,
we meet face to face, hers
a cameo in the concave
interior, eyes black and
silent, hair bun run through
with a long wooden pin
I wait for her voice to give me
a signal, a clue, some direction
but hear only the hollow echo
of absence and outside,
in the wind, a rustling
I can’t pinpoint. Back in
the nut, her face has become
a softly scalloped ear, all
ear, wordlessly imploring me
to speak my mind, but I
am speechless too, and ever
at a loss, with nothing
to declare. Mutually mute,
our standoff is assured.
I toss the walnut aside.
A woodpecker flies off
with it. Continuing
on my way, I dare not
reach for another.
The would-be farmer painted and soldered together
scraps of metal and hooked them onto an armature.
A mop head, worn and fluffy, served for the tail
and he used some old rubber booties for the feet
just to be whimsical. This was all to keep the birds
away from his modest suburban vegetable plot,
after his off-the-shelf scarecrow proved worthless.
He welcomed the birds in the off-season
and religiously supplied them with seed
but was getting annoyed at their pilfering
his crops. They were no dummies, though.
Curious, they swarmed near the would-be
fox and caught on very quickly, decorating
its head with droppings and pecking
at its head as if daring it to come to life.
More discouraging, they went about
their usual business of dining on lettuce,
tomatoes, pepper, and corn, growing
fat, lazy, and complacent, practically
setting up shop on the man’s property.
All went well for them and poorly
for the homeowner until one morning
as they nibbled on the newly ripening
tomatoes, he noticed an actual red fox
bolt from the woods. Most of the flock
escaped but it made short shrift
of a blackbird, too heavy, slow,
and flustered to fly away in time.
The next day, he saw the same or another
fox lurking about and the birds watching
warily until it left and they could resume
their dining. In the end, he decided to cut
his losses by harvesting the balance,
renouncing vegetable gardening, setting out
feeders for the birds early, and investing
in a shotgun for the unexpected.
Face to Face
Because you are helpless or simply feel helpless,
your choices are dwindling and charges of paranoia
notwithstanding, you are sure you are leading
a conspiracy against yourself, and are doomed.
You take a step, wobble, take another, trip,
break an ankle, limp, drop off the edge, crawl
through uncharted territory. To what? For what?
Raising your head, you come face to face
with yourself confidently striding towards you,
extending concern, help, an arm. You are grateful
for the lift and support. Hardly recognizing
the compassion, you ask, “Is it really you?”
“No, it’s you,” comes back the near echo.
Shoulder to shoulder, you retrace your steps,
converge, retrieve the best of what you shed
and find more to yourself than you remember.