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.