by Barry Dempster
It’s way before skunk hour
when the actual skunk pokes its snout
from under a hedge.
You pause mid-walk and blink,
half-expecting it to go away.
Later, over Bellinis and tiny tomato halves
stuffed with asiago, you begin
what will become your skunk story,
focussing on the black buttons of its eyes,
how they held surprise
at a strange new angle.
You imagine feeding it bits of bread,
limbering its capacity to trust,
the wide white stripe of its back and tail
hailed like a torn flag.
Soon it will be lumbering onto your lap,
a ball of purr and surrender.
You’ll name it Faith, perhaps,
pour it stainless steel bowls
of milk, let it sleep at the foot of your bed,
even groom it, finish off with a dab
of all-blossom perfume.
Startling, how you want to be seen
as wild in your ability to tame, how the loss of
some things are, weirdly, misinterpreted as gains.
Even skunks love you – life doesn’t
get much easier than that.
Truth, given the right opportunity, will hiss
and scratch, will spray you in the face.
Get away from that hedge.
It doesn’t belong to you.
Have another Bellini, courage to confess
the skunk detests you – nothing has
ever been craved more rabidly than your absence.
Now tell a story where you don’t even exist.
©2013 Barry Dempster
Taken from CV2, vol. 35, no. 4