A dark shadow on the muddy shore. A head pops up. The water’s surface quilted with moonlight. The muskrat is low to the ground and nibbling grass. A splash to the left, then a splash near the hutch. Across the neighborhood, the honking of our dog on his chain cuts the evening. He knows I’m outside and wants to be free to roam or let back in the house to lick crumbs from the floor. Animalism sparked by human proximity. Black bodies— move near the water so subtle it might be a trick of light and eyes accustomed to artificial light. The stars and moon blur pupils adapted to flourescent and incandescent bulbs of work and home. The dull throbbing glow of the new Christmas lights interrupts the transition from light to dark. The hole in the eye cannot find the focus it needs to see rodents by the marsh at night. Where the grass blends into water the snow is gone. Thaw has robbed contrast. Against the shine of rippling water, the black rodent blends. Under the arrow that flows from his swim and shows his direction: toward the hutch. The arrow grows into a triangle that terminates in the submerged grass. The muskrat house looks like a Van Gogh haystack; a loose pile of reed, but solid. A splash and plunk again left in the cover of cattails. The wind vibrates the water, rattles the cattails, and jingles chimes on a distant porch— a lonely sound. If not for the plunks and splashes my eyes would be liars. The shape that sat at the shore before swimming was black like the mist on the cooling land. The animal absence rather than presence. He lives in holes and steals a home from the places man lets him live. The lowest order of mammal. Field mouse feeds the hawk and snake; house mouse tears the plastic on the bright green block of poison— a glutton for his own death. His offspring eat his poisoned bowels. A plane overhead; a dead tree, cragged and crooked beyond the marsh and creek; a nickel- sized splash extends across the wind-chopped surface; the marshy ground pops and hisses with thaw— bubbles unfrozen escape through peat— the water chirps as terra firma turns to mush.
Indian Review | Literature and Poetry Magazine | Author | Matthew Hummer lives in Pennsylvania, USA. He has been published in a variety of literary magazines, such as Zymbol and Still Points Arts Quarterly.