I set the watermelon rind on the cinderblock wall out back
so the squirrel and her kits can eat or knock it to the ground
and stow it in their nest behind the neighbors’ shed,
and my friend says, So now you’re feeding rodents. Yes,
but just the kind with bushy tails. The squirrels eye me—
the young especially—as they search for scattered seed
below the bird feeder. They rise on rust-red haunches
to turn a morsel in their paws or stuff their cheeks.
Once assured I won’t interrupt, they slide into a soft patch
of dirt and slither cheeks to ears and down their sinuous
backs for a bath. Their pleasure gives me pleasure,
so I’ll keep bringing treats. Besides, the mama knows
if she shimmies up the pole or leaps onto the feeder,
I’ll chase her off. I don’t cater to greed here.
Marisa P. Clark is a queer writer whose work appears in Shenandoah, Cream City Review, Nimrod, Epiphany, Foglifter, Rust + Moth, Texas Review, and elsewhere. Best American Essays 2011 recognized her nonfiction among its Notable Essays. She hails from the South and lives in the Southwest. Follow @Professor_Gaga.