A Chipmunk Barks At Me - Poem by Chi
Now I understand why the chipmunk barked at me,
though all I could do then was to wait at the porch,
and watch her on her enhanced position on the board
below the unfinished ceiling,
to see if her message could somehow get to me.
No amount of wondering made me understand
her restless barking and chucking
(I had never heard or seen a chipmunk bark,
to talk of one doing so at a human)
even watching close her eyes and look, and her bobbing tail,
which was freed as she stood on her hind-legs.
She went on for a couple of minutes or so, vociferous and insistent,
unafraid unlike the meerkats or squirrels
I’m familiar with in game parks.
Now, having enquired from friends, being no natural historian,
I know chipmunks that co-exist around human homes,
bark at cats and pets when they see ‘their territory’ invaded.
But that was not the case as
we had co-existed for a single winter,
by-passing each other (though she preferred escaping
whenever she saw me going in or coming out) ,
never intruding on each other’s life.
Perhaps it were the plentiful cashew nuts that never
got finished in the bowl on the table -
which she found one morning after I left the door open -
the challenging cork,
the breaking of which sharpens the teeth,
and perhaps enhances the taste
when it is eaten.
Or perhaps the cupful of pumpkin seeds
which I forgot on the veranda
while going out for spring planting,
and which she readily found and greedily feasted on.
It made short shrift of the barks for so short a time, I realized,
tearing and shredding them without method -
all for the seeds.
By shutting the door and windows,
we might have locked out the chipmunk
from the feast of the ‘first fruits’.
She had searched for an opening to the house in vain,
(I later learnt) ,
scratched at the windows and the doors,
searched under the ceiling boards,
before confronting me when I came home.
'Why, oh why! '
The bark had left me confused.
At first I thought it was because I was darker, different –
thus a fitting welcome to a black prince, maybe,
or a warning that I was unwelcome and should get out of here.
Or was it the cashew nuts, or the pumpkin seeds?
I talked to visitors at diner - a sumptuous tropical dish
I made with pumpkin seeds from the supermarket-
and they all agreed that the chipmunk had intended a friendly greeting –
they’d never seen or heard of one barking and chucking,
which made me wonder again why the little chipmunk
had not barked at anyone before as a sign of appreciation?
Whatever the chipmunk intended communicating,
the door and the windows gave her a strong message.
I have not seen her on the porch again. The last time I saw her,
she was running across the yard, tail bobbing in the wind,
passing straight under the car,
and then climbing up an incline and disappearing into the woods.
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