by Christopher Martin
for Cannon Martin
Sometimes I’ll call my son
for the things he does
possums might do—
for the way he grunt-laughs,
chews my ball cap’s salty bill,
paints his face
with sweet potatoes,
noses down in the sticky jar
for the last drop.
For the way he belongs,
small mammal in the world—
a mind uncluttered
save thoughts of milk, of mother,
of sweet potatoes and sleep.
My dog caught a possum this morning—
picked it clean off the fencepost
before I knew what it was,
and wrestled it to the mud
of the mist-shrouded earth.
She licked the neck
and sniffed the still body
of the creature at her feet
among sweet gum balls
and overgrown weeds.
Soon the coyote dispossessed her.
She trotted back into the house
to her stainless steel food bowl
with a blue rubber grip on the bottom
so it won’t slide while she eats.
I watched the possum from the kitchen window—
presently it rose, hair still matted with saliva,
and faded into the pines beyond the fence.
Later, as I sat with my son, reading to him,
my dog walked by, sweetly
licked the child on his cheek
and wandered away—
the taste of a possum, perhaps,
still on her tongue.