I’m in the cellar of the city,
Walking Chester Creek Ravine, and so,
Though it’s a steamy day upstairs,
Down here, shaded by the greenery,
I’m cool as fog and drift along the trail,
Unthinking—a natural therapy
For worry warriors like me—
Admiring the rank slopes of thimbleberry,
Which offer white blossoms with the look
Of wild roses, inhaling eau de pin blanc,
While water sings the very best of songs:
“Isn’t This Exactly What You Wanted?”

Abracadabra, out from behind
The trunk of a monumental white pine,
A foursome of small raccoons appears as one,
Shambling, stumbling, nudging and bumping
Each other, chirring and grumbling, muttering and mumbling,
Freezing me in place. My first thought: “Oh, my god,
For cute!” My second thought: “Thank you!”
My third thought, wary: “Where’s their mom?”
For coons can attack. They’re capable. The kits
Have stopped. What’s that? they must be wondering.
Am I the first two-legged thing they’ve seen?
What am I? I’m not so sure, myself. But
I am filled with admiration of their silver fur,
The rings around their tails, the black bandito
Masks through which they see the world,
So much of which is so much
Taller than themselves. Thoughts of mother
Plus appreciation move me to applaud.
That does it. The sibling amalgamation
Turns as one, a mammalian amoeba,
And vanishes, retreating toward the creek,
Still muttering. What luck, I think, what luck!

Or so I’m feeling at the moment, but
Will I feel so keen when they are grown
And come looting garbage cans by night
Or popping up from city water drains?
Or how about that family of them nesting
In the neighbor’s attic? What a nuisance!
And yet it was hilarious to look across and see
Half a raccoon looking round, relaxing
In the coon-sized hole they’d torn in the roof,
Like a soldier from the turret of a tank.

Still I can’t stop smiling and giving thanks
For this encounter. Truth is, I’m never more
Myself, whatever that is, never more relaxed
Than down here in this green ravine, away
From humanoids, their racket and machinery.
But now I must ascend the stairs, and so,
Regretfully, I pull on the cape of caution
And the tight, narrow mask with little eyeholes
To meet the world of men and women.