The Racoon Tree
Our good friends, Duane and Heather,
have lived in their house forty years,
stewards of a large cherry tree.
They look forward with anticipation
to the black cherries each June,
though they never get to taste any.
It is known as the Raccoon Tree.
After blossoms drop in spring
a raccoon sleeps in the tree every day,
keeping an eye on future cherries.
Imagine the local ringtail clan
drawing straws each morning before bed,
the loser spending the day in the tree.
When the cherries show the slightest blush
all raccoons spend the evenings there,
stuffing their bandit faces full of red cherries,
dropping the telltale signs under the tree,
cherry seed scat. Picture them
dark nights roosting, bellies full, playing cards
with their little hands, snickering and chattering
like they’re wont to do, telling human jokes.
Not a single Bing ripens enough
for Duane and Heather to savor a taste.
They satisfy themselves at the window each night
by watching the glowing eyes in the tree,
and rogue cherries tumbling down.
Blackberry vines arch in temptation,
making wildlife tunnels,
sustaining all manner of small beings:
birds, mice, insects even rabbits.
These vines are known for a trinity:
berries, barbs and prolific growth.
Often the sticky canes billow out
toward the meadows.
When the brush catches your clothing,
best just to plow through.
Any attempt to use finesse
just creates more tangle, like a spider web.
When grabbed by the skin, though,
don’t yank away. Just relax, back up,
let the bush let go a little at a time.
Don’t lay down and close your eyes
in the proximity of these briar patches
like Rip van Winkle did in the Catskills
when he met a band of mysterious Dutchmen.
You might wake up twenty years later
with a long white beard, sticks and thorns
holding you fast to the earth,
needing to be fed with a spoon
for the rest of your days.
Frank Babcock lives in Corvallis, Oregon and is a retired Albany middle school teacher and owner of a bamboo nursery. He writes poetry to share the strange thoughts that rattle around in his head and to get them off his mind. He started with an interest in the beatnik poets, Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg. He has a long way to go and much to write before he sleeps. Poems published in the local Advocate, Willawaw Journal, and Panoplyzine.