This is for Richardson’s Ground Squirrel

This poem won First place in 2-Day Poem Contest 2008

flickertail, picketpen, tawny burrowing pest

of the short grass prairie, crippler of horse & rider,

cattle bison ox; tractor disabler, axle wheel breaker,

you warrant a pardon, you & your winding tunnels,

underground hibernacula of leaf-lined nest chambers,

kin cluster, a female social order bonded by mothers

daughters aunts nieces, each of you in estrus

one afternoon once a year, the glorious efficiency of the small,

shiver & bite; claw scratch further courtship, attend

your own ripe fattening. Think of it –

earth buckle contraction, a hairless litter, the multiples of proof

as you move from chamber to food cache, feeding

on foraged grasses, seeds, insects: head thorax abdomen,

every coarse filament chewed fine as sienna dust

before you vessel back to your blind litter, a milk urn.

Let's swap: my prairie for yours, nervous rodent industry

instead of cranes, bulldozers, dynamite.

Wrench of envy, your subterranean mess nothing compared

to what we've done: drought rattle, soil toxic, songless skies.

To Richardson's ground squirrel an article

of pardon: Blessed creatures that see so poorly in the dim

light of dawn and dusk.