Chipmunk of A Rock
I read, “The chipmunk of a rock dropped
in a stream,” before I saw “chimmuck,” a word
exactly right for the sound. But then there was
the rock, missing its chipmunk, the chipmunk
that had depended upon the rock and held onto it,
perhaps, as part of itself, so familiar it was
with the contours, ragged edges and smooth
surfaces. And the rock, feeling the cold
for the first time, feeling its crystallization
as a burden, a weight headed for the stream,
one giving, the other displacing exactly,
the geometry of cells arid as a dead planet,
indifferently chimmucking into watery space.
Among the magenta paintbrush,
cinquefoil, and heather of Mount Rainier, I sat
on a rise, and chipmunks emerged, six of them.
They came almost to my hand, little brush tails
like surprised rudders. It seemed painful,
to have to remain on Orange Alert both for good
and for bad: bits of sandwich dropped in the cracks,
and the huge, shadowy forms inexplicably arriving
and leaving with some morality of their own.
I had nothing to give, so I sat like a rock,
except for my breathing, which I kept smooth,
for diplomacy. In this way, we set up our relationship,
which I miss even now, its electric fragility,
the meanings that could shift second by second.
—originally published in Cortland Review