Cameron Steele

            but one is a rascal,

we say, meaning cursed
or maybe rabid. In the backyard the brick fire pit smokes
near the raccoon nosing grass
I finally mowed.

            Technically speaking,

we say Procyon Lotor sounds mechanical,
or working class, all factory
animal in unreliable light.

            You know work,

without wealth is death, our parents say.
You know work with hands can be art:
summer’s detritus scavenged
by the Raccoon River—turned into sculpture.
The animal sound of discovery—
whoop-whoop- whoop.

            The alarm wail—

For pain or danger. At midnight
the sound is the ululation of lead pipes
while dirty water drains from the tub.
I run half-naked through rooms I believe
are filled with spirits. They shout,
When did you get fat? after my toweled
body, waving a rust-and- copper mirror.


I ask my boyfriend what my raccoon
looks like in broad daylight since I cannot see it
for myself. The answer: demanding—
raccoons just blend in better at night.


making scarce, thin and thirsty
from predation, or it’s winter, or holiday
season, the girl starving before
trying on dresses bought half-sizes too small.


the blue-eyed grandfather I’ve never seen
without cataracts but have heard the stories.
And my grandmother’s fur coat that blinks
in the attic, shrugs off its hanger
to slink along exposed pipes.

            A sculpture will last longer

than the raccoon’s scavenger two-step
in our good suburban lawn
that won’t grow into something wild
until the next full moon. I hiss
at recognizing it, you cast another log
into the bricks, then flames lick
their breath against the dark.

            The next time

someone says, navel-gazing
doesn’t really suit you, you’ll know
they’ve sniffed out the animal.