The raccoon has been stuffed,
been set on the edge of the reservoir
behind the chain link fence,
is an artistic statement.
The raccoon is dying,
is just now being reborn,
is practicing tai chi so slowly
I can’t see him move
on the crumbling balustrade
by the city’s central reservoir.
The raccoon moves no one;
everyone is responsible.
The raccoon is dancing the dance
of stillness, is frozen in time,
his nose to a crack,
and the earth is moving.
The raccoon has a sexually transmitted disease,
is about to drop into the reservoir,
is about to commit suicide
in the city’s water supply.
The raccoon is withholding
key information, is straining
to communicate, is meditating
on the crack, is stuck to the rail.
The raccoon is the enemy, a friend,
reason to get alarmed, to call the authorities,
reason to move on, to think about my day,
to listen to and tell his story.
The raccoon has had a rough night,
has had too much to drink,
has found hell here
escaping the night’s howling dogs.
The raccoon is a monument to survival,
stands taller than an eighty-five story building,
is the dot missing from an i in a love letter
burning in a rusted-out incinerator.
The raccoon is dangerous, will explode
if tampered with, is a toy, a game, the second coming,
a saint, a martyr, the sacrificial lamb, the Sphinx
rising from the ashes of a cigarette.
The raccoon doesn’t exist,
is the center of the universe,
is a satellite orbiting a distant planet,
is a grandfather, a father, a son.
The raccoon is the reservoir.
The raccoon knows nothing, knows everything—
my name, yours, the earth’s true name—
and spits it out with a hiss
before I call the National Guard.
Note: Poem by Rick Clark previously published in Washington Community College Humanities Association Arts Journal.