Both science and art have the habit of waking us
up, turning on the lights, grabbing us by the
collar and saying "Would you please pay attention?"
— Diane Ackerman
The absolute horizontal of leaps
from one tree to the next, or of scampers
along power lines; playing against
the true perpendicular of light-pole climbing.
When occasion warrants, like shadows,
only tails twitch, slightly, and eyes.
Given such small size, in the vicinity
of red tail hawks and innumerable
feral cats, you'd imagine they’d keep their peace.
But no—any smallest berry demands orations.
The grey that gives them their name,
but a black family has grown year by year,
and on one occasion, a true white
walks a fence, Wallenda-like.
Not running, not trotting—
a scheme of tiny leaps.
No asphalt, not even four lanes worth,
inhibits their progress. Hearing or spying
a bus bearing down, they freeze
so it can pass safely above them.
Head first, head last, no matter
the angle or altitude, always alert,
their tiny eyes seemingly full of curiosity.
Sometimes robust, sometimes small as bat or vole,
they do what is needed to suit available holes.
John Hildebidle has recovered from a Ph.D. in English from Harvard by
teaching in a public junior high school, Harvard, and now MIT, where
he infects proto-terchnologists with a love for literature,
especially poetry. He has two grown children, two cats, a mortgage—all the earmarks of a bourgeois life. He has published one collection
of stories and four gatherings of verse, the newest (Signs, Translations) available online at salmonpoetry.com. He lives and
writes in Cambridge, Massachusetts.