Julia Shipley


One day after work in winter, my lover leads me

to the porcupine          ensconced in the hollow

of a standing cedar.                    The porcupine—

our region's urchin,          grunts and snorts;

it's shifting. We hear     his prickly scuffles within;

the midden of porcupine shit                   betrays his entrance 

to board and residence,          spilling

over the snow          it forms a ramp to

where the creature's burrowed.          I feel

the steepness of this:     encroaching dusk,

quills of freezing air                    at my throat, ears.

Night has already filled in    our boot prints; they look

like shit                            dropped on snow, leading up

to us.     Somewhere, maybe here

in this strange air          my lover rescinds

his courtship,     so subtly I don't recognize

his drift until          months after we witness this.

As we stand     I'm secretly bleeding,

burrowed          in the throes of

something immense,     the way the porcupine

sways in his steeple     of cedar and pieces of the cedar's

nibbled                  interior     sleds among the animal's blood.