the closing of winter is far, far too close. So I watch
the empty trees swing. Without their leaves,
the squirrels’ nests hang out in plain sight,
tucked in the thatchy crotches of oaks. Inside, little animals
are still sleeping, each with his tail curled around
himself, all these stored up egg shaped lives, cozied together
in their basketball made of leaves. Hugged by the warm
hands of stillest darkness, they dream of things well hidden,
mating shamelessly on budded branches, and
fox’s teeth: the smell of almost death.
I dread the weight of summer. Spring and I
are on speaking terms but I know she’s hiding
sweltering, sweaty days behind her back.
Some years she can’t be bothered to show up
at all and summer barges in, taking over
the place, dropping his bags of thunderstorms
and hot, dog-shit scented pavement by the door, already
rummaging around for lemonade, visibly disappointed
at our lack of swimming pools. He wants to barbecue
a whole goat in my backyard and plop mayonnaisey
scoops of potato salad on every plate, overcrowding
my refrigerator with mounding, strange architecture
made out of jello and murky, floating inclusions.
He stretches the days past their limit, leaving them
stretch marked and misshapen after equinox,
which you would think would mark his visit half over
but like the days he’s mangled, there’s somehow
2/3 more to go. I’m already impatient for the delicacy
of falling leaves and the arrival of Autumn spiderwebs
long before the screams of his school children,
loosed upon the Earth, have begun their day-long calling.
It’s half a month before I get used to the idea that
blood curdling cries are not distress calls but a quirk of their nature,
an inexplicable and uncontrollable utterance as persistent
and unstoppable as the rooster who counts the night hours
aloud beneath your window.
Just when I’m sure he is ready to leave, August bleeds
into September. What’s two more weeks? Three? Dry dirt
crusts the edges of the streets, the plants bowing for mercy
when the water evaporates before it breaks the crust it lands on.
I am bitten and scabby from his entourage. The fleas and mosquitos
find my blood especially delicious. I have concluded that I am
strawberry flavored, but it might be the sun’s delusions seeping
through the faded, baked hair that tries to protect my brain from cooking.
I find another of his ticks in my bed and put on my boots to march outside.
I swear to nature and karma, I will tell him flat out right now
how much I hate him. Never mind politeness or knowing
he’s fattening my pumpkins and tightening walnut shells,
gently opening the souls of autumn bulbs by my mailbox.
I don’t care that he’s filled the skies with acorn rain, ready
to send my roof the friendly sound of friends tapping at the door.
But he’s gone, and my rage gets distracted ten steps after him.
It flies from my chest like the string of a tailless kite, a yanking
fighting tug that quickly loses momentum and wiggles gently to the ground.
The opossums who were just lately fat pouched with pups wander aimlessly
from dewy wet dirt patch to shadowy hiding place, nibbling at one
crepuscular insect, then another. Summer has taken his bossy heat
and high volume stereos to another hemisphere and left his thanks
in chrysanthemums, dorky adolescent squirrels, and blackberries.
Veronica Noechel lives and writes in Raleigh, NC, where she fosters rats, hamsters, and other rodents for rescue and operates her Etsy shop. She attributes both her artistic tenacity and general fear of everything to obsessive-compulsive disorder. She became an unwilling resident of Couch Island a decade ago when a surprise in her DNA showed up as degenerative disk disease. Though debilitating, it is not fatal and she is expected to lead a long and intensely painful life. Her poetry has been widely published in journals as well as in four chapbooks generously published by Argonne House Press, Assume Nothing Press, and Foothills Press. Visit her at evnoechel.com and scrappyrat.etsy.com.