a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
In the beginning, the squirrel
only knew that when a branch bends
it is time to leap.
Aristotle named the creature
by combining tail with fluffy shadow
in a Greek dialect few understand.
As a truly Western being,
the squirrel ranges from French villas
to Texan cul-de-sac tract homes
off Interstate 80.
Squirrels do not hide
in shadows. They prefer daylight
when they bark guttural bass tones
throughout the afternoon.
It seems that everywhere,
squirrels perch on a redwood fences
taunting passersby while laughing.
The history of the squirrel
is deep and rich. After climbing
trees in the Americas,
she learned to fly.
A flying squirrel can glide
gracefully through tree canopies
and has no recollection
of having climbed up
from the bottom.
A squirrel is not cognizant
of its origins, but since arriving
in the New World
they have not gone hungry for long.
Some squirrels climbing Eucalyptus trees
are so fat, they wobble branch to branch,
their gelatinous bellies gurgling.
But it is not their fault. Instinct
mandates to gather all as protection
against the coming storm.
If the storm never comes, squirrel arteries
clog. Some suffer heart attacks. Others
develop tumors. The lucky ones simply
fall into an eternal sleep knowing
all is right with the world. That is unless
they’ve been placed into stews
by those hungry and in need.
Before coming to the United States,
Miguel went in pursuit
of iguana. It was Nicaragua.
He was riding a jeep
with friends who carried rifles.
Moving faster than cars idling
at the Tex-Mex border, the iguana
crosses shadow and light.
Highly adaptive, she also swims
in the sea and slides through deserts.
For over 7000 years iguanas
have imbued potency and healed
the weary. Crushed into a paste,
she is also an aphrodisiac.
Iguana power. Iguana dreams. Green scales
glisten wet throughout Nicaragua. The rivers,
arboreal forests and humid sky lending water.
Where the scars rise on my right ear,
I dreamed of placing an iguana tattoo.
Iguana meat can be broiled, sautéed
or fried. Miguel said he made iguana
stew, then promptly got ill.
Something about the unforeseen
brewing at high temperatures.
In Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador,
Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama
she digs deep to bury her eggs.
To avoid offending Padre nuestro, on Fridays
during Lent iguana stew is ladled over rice.
The morning Tere saw la guardia drive
up and Miguel ran, an iguana witnessed
all perched on a cement block wall.
After an earthquake shattered
living room walls and they were never
rebuilt, Miguel shot the iguana.
Then he came to the United States.
Somewhere in Texas or Arizona,
there might be one lone tree, a grand
old crotchety oak, with a squirrel
in one limb and an iguana in another.
Adela Najarro is the author of two poetry collections: Split Geography and Twice Told Over. She teaches creative writing, literature, and composition at Cabrillo College. For spring 2016, she is teaching a “Poetry for the People” workshop at Cabrillo where students explore personal voice and social justice through poetry and spoken word. More information about Adela can be found at her website: www.adelanajarro.com.