@this_girl_is_a_squirrel

by | Aug 15, 2022 | Poetry

I join Instagram for the animals,
videos my friend Christine sends
of Juniper and Mushroom (fox
and possum), Buff and his fellow
guinea pigs, but it’s Jill
who clinches it, rescue squirrel
flung from her nest down the winds
of Hurricane Isaac. Christine and I talk
of the animals like mutual friends. How
Jill tucks her tail when she settles
to eat, how she stands on tiptoe
to inspect the fake tree. It’s not
uncommon for baby squirrels
to fall, but to live through that storm?
They thought she’d stay for a month
but she never left. I’m not sure
which I love more: the idea
of the small beast curled in my palm,
or the journey from fall to safety.
As I child, I imagined life in a burrow
at the base of a tree, a squirrel home
I thought, not knowing their nests swayed
above, but I’d read My Side of
the Mountain
and I knew such a den
would be fine, a bed in a trunk, a small fire.
I’d cozy inside all winter while
the snow swirled over the world,
a far cry from Jill’s morning cardio
across the couch back, leaping
to her person’s outstretched hand.
When they sit in the sun, Jill melts
to the human arm, lazes as any sun-
bather would, flipping back her ears
to cool off. Jill’s person rarely
shows her own face so we imagine
we’re the ones holding Jill,
the smooth warmth of her belly,
her long dainty claws, how she likes
to hold the spoon when she licks
the last of the yogurt. More than
700,000 followers. When she hasn’t posted
in a few days, Christine and I call
one other in worry, look up the lifespan
of squirrels (up to 20 years, thank goodness!).
Then she’s back napping in the folds
of her person’s collar, and something,
though we’re not sure what,
feels right with the world.

About The Author

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Laura Donnelly is the author of Midwest Gothic (Ashland Poetry Press 2020) and Watershed (Cider Press Review 2013), and her recent poems have appeared in Colorado Review, The Journal, SWWIM, EcoTheo Review, and elsewhere. Originally from Michigan, she lives in Upstate New York and teaches at SUNY Oswego.