Squirrel Hill

“Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
            — Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day”
Eyes of the author.

Randy Minnich

PHOTO: Randy Minnich

Randy Minnich was a research chemist and chemistry professor. Now retired, he has time to write and pursue environmental interests. He has published two poetry books, Wildness in a Small Place and Pavlov’s Cats: Their Story, which can be purchased through lulu.com and Amazon. His poetry has appeared in Snowy Egret, Pudding, Pearl, Main Street Rag, The Unitarian Universalist Poets (an anthology), and other publications.

Daisy Smells a Dinosaur

They’ve clunked in the trunk for four hundred miles,
now clatter and clack to the table:

glitters of quartz…yellow to clear,
a smooth red heart of jasper,

mudstone pebbles, so slick in the hand,
two agates that look like tattooed potatoes,

a five-pound chunk from a limestone cliff—
brachiopods and polychaete worms peek out.

Daisy stalks the collection, nostrils flaring,
Though she’s never snuffed
the scent of the sea,
a cat just knows, somehow.

“Track of crab, scale of tuna. Yes.
Speck of hound-dog spittle…Labrador.
Scuff of Viking boot…walrus hide.
So faint…ah yes…a sliver of mastodon tusk.
Oh my!” Her lips curl into the limburger scowl.

“Velociraptor collagen half petrified…
smells a bit like chicken.”
To my son, while dining out

Since you’re different, they stare—
as though you dined in a carnival tent,
with a barker at the door,
your table ringed with bars
so the customers may safely gawk
for fifty cents a head.

So by the ticket-holder’s right
they wield their wide unblinking eyes like scalpels,
presuming, if God twitches as He works
and leaves a part unfinished, or a flaw,
the bearer is anesthetized, somehow, and unaware
of the slow cold vivisecting stares.

Lashed by fatherhood and inbred fire,
I pace the cage and rage.
For every cut they aim at you
I send a dagger back.
And yet—and yet—you defeat them all alone:
you carry on with dignity
or ask them how they are.

Geared for war, I miss how you disarm them.
I think you hold a mirror up,
but what they see--
a candid image of themselves,
or what they ought to be—
I haven’t fathomed yet.

I do know that defending you—
I might as well defend the sea
against the fishes or the sand.
This pilgrimage of ours has passed
through waters bright and shallow, wild and deep,
and dutifully I’ve slogged or swum
through waves you lightly walk upon.

Appeared in Pudding

To a Two-inch Millipede

On this, the Rules of the House are clear:
"No critters with more than four legs—
or fewer than one—are allowed upstairs!"

So I've stomped on your kin,
squashed every one that I've seen—
upstairs—with never a second thought.

But tonight I saw you rowing home
sedately across the cold cellar floor
like a Viking ship o'er a slick, black sea.

You flowed away on waves of legs
with symmetry and rhythm that would drop
a coxswain’s jaw in admiration. Now

we surely can't have little beasts
making nightly ceiling voyages,
lurking under the couch,

or waving feelers from behind
the gentle waters of Monet.
Still, I sit upon the basement steps

watching you and wondering
what marvels we must miss
by slamming doors and building fences.