The weasel living in my wood-rack
has whitened for winter. Caught
in the sneer of my flashlight,
his snout points west, his tail
points east toward the risen moon.
Mice rustle under the wooden deck.
They smell the musk and hustle
to their holes. I’d photograph
this streamlined carnivore but
already it has sleeked around
the corner of the house to scout
for unwary prey. The silence
of its presence and its absence rhyme.
I could step outside and attempt
to freeze-frame it somewhere
along the rear wall, but the dark,
even moonstruck, repels me.
I’m not much of a carnivore,
compared to this least weasel.
I lack the bright-eyed purpose
Keats saw in animal instinct,
lack the ferocity required
to rip the heart from a carcass
still quivering with surrender
and eat with a clear conscience.
Keats self-devoured both lungs
because nursing his consumptive
brother exposed him fatally.
No true carnivore would risk
its hide for anything but offspring;
so despite his admiration
for single-purpose creatures
Keats lacked the cruel commitment
the nineteenth century asked
of its artists. I could wait
to see the weasel return
with a mouse in its jaws. Maybe
photographing that event
would redeem me; and maybe
the moon, high overhead by then,
would absolve me of timid moments
only omnivores can afford.
A Runic Manuscript
My course in poetry and math
concludes with an equation
unsolvable because no one
knows what values to enter.
Truth? Beauty? The day after,
I drive down a shabby cul-de-sac.
Gray houses gloom in the chill;
penned Dobermans bark and snarl.
Last night a garage burned down
and the firefighters reported
that a spirit rose with the smoke.
They found no scorched carcass, though,
only a charred runic manuscript.
I’d like to see it, but police
suspect it’s sorcery and fear
someone might read it aloud,
so have locked it safely away.
They don’t realize that it contains
the values required to solve
the equation I invented
to confound my students. The stink
of fire smuts the neighborhood.
The ruined garage lies so flat
in a sneer of cinders no one
could determine from the rubble
what it had looked like in life.
The children of the neighborhood
have lined up to urinate one
by one on the rubble. A local
custom, an old man informs me.
The brief November day fades
in a grimace of crimson sky.
As I drive away a whiff
of ammonia sickens me,
and I understand that the runes,
however magical, like
my obtuse homemade equation,
no longer function or apply.