Which Side I’m On

by John Grey

Buck standing on a hill with snowy mountains in the distance.

I’m on the side of whoever is out there frolicking,
whether it’s the otters like furry rolling pins in the river
or the young groundhogs darting from rock to rock,
and whatever nibbles on something that begins
to grow back the minute it’s done feeding
like the deer or the hare or the bear with a face full of blackberries.

If you survive through the winter by building up body fat,
and sleeping the months off in a cave,
or you nuzzle aside thick layers of ice to get at the paltry leftovers
or feed off the fallen to keep from joining that poor creature
in a coffin of thick snow, then you have my admiration.

Even if you’re smart enough to squirrel away an existence in my back yard,
or can drop your body temperature by ten degrees
on bitter cold nights to preserve energy
or soak in mud or secrete foul fluids from musk glands under your carapace,
or howl or keen in the depths of night,
then don’t count me as one of you but be aware I’m for you.

If you survive predators or you are a predator,
if you burrow down or soar upward,
if you emit foul-smelling sulfurous spray
or threaten the hen-coop
and even if you raid the trash-bins,
I have no complaint.

But if you’re out there in the forest dressed in orange,
toting a rifle, and look more like me than a woodchuck does,
then I’m sorry but I do not have your back.
If you shoot on sight, your bullet hits the target,
and then you pat yourself on the back, then you’ve lost me for good.
And, if you come home with a blood-stained buck tethered to your car roof,
don’t expect me to rush out giddily to greet you.
It’s forty years since that happened.
And I’m still not on your side.

Category: Poetry, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing