Poems

Chipmunk of A Rock

1
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.
2
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