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Daily Life


ISSUE:  Winter 1994

We knew the rat in the crawlspace
was chewing on something essential.
But who’d go down to set the traps?
The house was ours—wasn’t it my duty
to protect it? Woodchucks arrived,

nipped the heads off all the better flowers.
Deer browsed their way
through the evergreens. Beside the porch
ants assembled their castles, then moved
into the damp wall of the kitchen.

What fine idea of nature would let me feel
my house might as well be theirs?
By morning, moles had taken over the lawn.
I flattened their little tunnels
and felt satisfied. By afternoon
all of them had been built again.

“When those ants get a taste of this,”
the exterminator told us, “you just watch
what happens.” He pumped the wall
full of poison. They wouldn’t budge.
“Pinwheels,” said the clerk at the hardware store.
“Moles hate those things. Try pinwheels.”

The yard was a vast city, the house another.
I considered the advantages of resignation.
I thought of Thoreau in his cabin,
Wordsworth among his daffodils and ruins.
I thought of all the great poems
of sympathetic observation, how my poem
wouldn’t be one of them,

though in the end it might still assume
a certain festive air, with many
bright wheels spinning in the breeze
as if some splendid party
had been happily concluded, the children
driven home, only the dutiful father
left out in the evening, smiling at his work.

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