I am being followed by raccoons.
The first one crossed slow
through neighborhood traffic,
stopping first the southbound
and then the northbound car
which swerved and went around.
She stopped in front of our passenger tire
and looked at me. Drive on, I said,
drive. I was watchful
all night and wore tall boots when I walked.
If she’d been an old woman under a cloak
of stripe and ringed eyes, I’d have known her
sooner for the specter that she was,
a warden, a watcher, that old white opossum
that showed its teeth against the sliding glass.
I am walking on the shore when the next
raccoon comes, small, gray, cute even
until he looks right at me and comes a step closer.
Go away; go the other way.
Everyone realizes it’s just me he wants,
so I put the three books of poetry I carry
spines down in the sand,
a barrier wall to confuse him. I flee,
losing the library copy of Glück’s Ararat
to the wild.
They keep doing this,
I shriek to whoever will listen,
third one this week: Raccoons
are trying to get me. In the hunched back
of the largest one, she carried age
like a contagion. Soon, claw fingers will wave
come here, come here. You, with your baby
high cholesterol, with your blood
pressure just up enough. You’re slow,
you’re one of us. Put on the cloak, slow down,
grub though the corn cobs
and the leftover breads. Take this white
pill, this pink. Swallow, swallow
with your morning juice, come hump
along the shore and the street with us.
Laura Lee Washburn, author of This Good Warm Place (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize), has published poems in such journals as Poet Lore, Carolina Quarterly, 9th Letter, The Sun, and Valparaiso Review. Harbor Review’s annual micro-chap prize is named in her honor.