North American Porcupine

 

I’m quite often high in the trees,

Munching on leaves with a side of lumber,

A creature who favors the nights,

Though on splendid days with a breeze

I’ll take in the seasonal sights,

My sharp claws holding my place

So I don’t tumble down when I slumber

Like a plummeting ball of mace.

If I’m not in the canopy then

I’m relaxing down in my den—

That I surely won’t help you discover—

With or without my lover.

(On the question we’re posed to no end:

That’s none of your business, my friend.)

Or here where you’ve found me I’m found,

My paws on the dim forest floor

Making what I like to call "ground"

Under ten thousand quills or more;

Though to all brother rodents I know

I shamble so dismally slow

Even when dreadfully hounded

My progress is wholly unfounded.

But I say to the hare, hurry past;

I am always delighted to tarry

For herbs or a windfall of mast,

Spring buds or the ripe wild berry;

And I may even dally to chew

My way through a wooden canoe,

Then I’ll chomp on the paddle to savor

The salt I especially favor,

Or maybe just for something to do.

Now each dog I grant has its day

And I’ll concede each black bear its night,

But not at my expense, I inveigh,

And I drive home that point really quite.

When pursuers are hot on my trail

I grow neither frightened nor furious;

I’m not even notably curious

Till on my long and literal tail

They’re licking their veritable chops,

Then my forward ambling stops,

I bristle and offer my hind

And all who linger will find—

And trust me, always for worse—

How rapid I fly in reverse.

At the end of our matching of wills

It’s two fangs for a faceful of quills.

I’m a bit like a wandering scholar

Who studies the art of the holler,

And my students all take home an A—

For Agony, I guess you could say.

(Now you ask if much like a spear

I can launch my spines at a foe?

On that fact or that superstition

I wish to be perfectly clear:

I offer no public position;

“No comment” is as far as I go.)

Then I proceed at my leisurely pace

From my acupunctured aggressor,

My quills all back in their place

The envy of any hairdresser.

I don’t have a burrow to dash in,

A pond to dive into and splash in,

I don’t raise some god-awful stink

Or race up a trunk in a blink,

If I look to be dead I’m no actor;

But take heed, each forest malefactor:

Through balm and blizzard, downpour and scorcher,

I’m your walking apparatus for torture.

And that’s why I’m so very mellow

With you alongside me, good fellow,

Though I don’t advise closing our distance

Or you’re likely to wear on your shanks

A pen set at my own insistence—

It’s just my way of saying no thanks.

Ah, wild blueberries!  I’ll be stopping here to dine.

That’s all I have to say.  I’m the porcupine.

 

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