Saturday, May 3, 2008

Prairie Dogs

A wonderful Colorado morning so Dog and I went for a long walk in the land of the prairie dogs. Cheeky rodents, they chitter and warn, heads poking out of the holes until we get within a few feet of them. They all look alike, though some seem a little battered around the head. If I spent my days digging head-first in this dry, high planes clay, I'd look rough too. In fact, I look rough without the digging. I like little everyday critters, crows, red-winged blackbirds, gulls, prairie dogs, squirrels, the commoners.

This week my daughter and I visited a wild animal rescue site near Ft. Lupton, CO. The place does an amazing job of providing shelter for large, exotic, dangerous animals who cannot return to the wild--tigers, leopards, bears, lions, wolves, and an emu. The emu gets no note in the guidebook, but both of us saw it, so I didn't hallucinate. Seeing huge tigers sleeping in the sun, lions sprawled on their backs, napping under the shade of a cement overhang, wonderful. A noble endeavor to take these animals from the tiny, cruel cages where they lived, often without a good meal, prisoners of their own nature. What started as a cute, small, exotic pet, soon became a dangerous mistake. So these folks promise a life-long haven for the animals.

I'm not exotic, no one needs to rescue me, and I think that's why I like the prairie dogs. They go about their business in complete privacy, except when Dog and I wander through their neighborhood and they scold us. They keep their own society.

Prairie Dogs

Fat, brown busybodies
snacking on sunshine—
I’d be one,
hovering at the burrow,
gossiping. Maybe
I was once,
munching prairie grass.

And what ate me,
coyote, crow, beetle?
I was once lunch,
will be again,
molecule by molecule
spreading into the next form.

I’ll feed on sunlight
as we always do,
mind nibbling on dawn
over the lake, loving
a clatter of geese, ducks,
red-wing blackbirds,
feast for the senses
in a candyland of houses,
cars, yellow roses, yellow wasps.

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