Racoon Spirits

In “Report on the Status of Raccoons on Fern Avenue” Dani Couture offers this concluding stanza:

They understand construction cranes to be a form of prayer. They take more meaning from the lay of flagstones than they should. They’re partial to the sound of human crying. They sleep unmolested on the eaves we’ll never finish paying for.

Which I here juxtapose with two poems from James Tate.

The first in the Paris Review, “Elvis Has Left the House”

I picked the raccoon up and walked to the door. It was Denny, the boy from next door. “Can I have my raccoon back?” he said. “I don’t know how he got in here, really I don’t. But, sure, here’s your raccoon,” I said. “By the way, what’s his name?” “Elvis,” he said, grabbing his pet. A few days later I had worked hard in the yard all day and was tired. I went to bed early and when I woke up Elvis was in my arms. It felt natural and good and I kissed him, which he seemed to like. I got up and fixed him breakfast, which was cereal and milk. He liked that. Then I went about my day and Elvis followed me around. He stayed that night. And the next night. In fact he seemed to be a permanent tenant by now. We had our routines and our meals. We slept together. One day when I was raking leaves in the fall I saw Bob and Susan in their yard. They were Dennis’s parents. After we exchanged greetings and talked for a little bit, I said, “How’s Denny?” “We thought you knew. Denny died last summer. It was polio,” Bob said. “Oh, I’m so sorry. He’ll be greatly missed, I know,” I said. Then I finished raking and went back in the house. I did some paperwork, napped for a while, and fixed dinner. Something was different. Elvis wasn’t there. I looked everywhere, but there was no Elvis.

The second in Poetry “Demigoddess”

Aunt Myrtle […] herself was a mess, her long stringy hair was filthy, and she walked around in an ancient bathrobe looking like a ghost. “This house needs some work, Aunt Myrtle,” I said. “It’s the racoons,” she explained. […] “I told you they want me, they worship me, I’m their goddess, and they won’t stop until I come live with them. There are hundreds of them.” […] Then around 2 a.m. I thought I heard something. From the kitchen window I saw Aunt Myrtle crouched in the backyard holding a plate of food in one hand and stroking the back of a standing racoon with the other. They looked like very good friends, indeed. And one is enough in this world.

And finally a quip from Ursula K. Le Guin

The curious comparison followed: Geertz is to Lévi-Strauss as a racoon is to a unicorn.

from her reading journal “The Hope of Rabbits: A Journal of a Writer’s Week” in Words Are My Matter.

And so for day 2610

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