My family laughs, when they don't cringe, at my obstinate
inability to tell apart the myriad forest animals who creep,
crawl and rustle through the nearby woods.  No naturalist, I
refer to each and every furry creature as Badger, as if God

had not distinguished their delicate paws.  Black badgers
with a white stripe waddling past, ring-tailed badgers down
by the stream with their lightning quick grasp, and even
floppy-eared badgers who brazenly nibble on my carrots.

Yet, for all my family's embarrassment, elbow jabs, suppressed
giggles and smirks, I am not alone.  As the shadows stretch,
yawn and flow together to form sleepy pools of liquid darkness,
the rushing headlights of some harried businessman or nervous,

philandering, damn-I'm-so-late spouse careen through the puddles.
Beams of light spray into frightened, drowning eyes, and leave
again, leave some smeared and crumpled carcass in their wake,
unidentified and uncared for in the dissipating ripples of light.

As the pungent odor drifts into the well-tended yards, setting
the dogs to baying and howling at the freshly impotent scent, or as
the rings merge on the shattered tail, smudged together by blood
and jumbled viscera, or as the once-floppy ears lie limp and torn,

who is to say which is a badger, more or less?   Differentiated
features blur in the anonymous carnage, and soon wind and rain will
begin their inevitable scouring.  A few days, a week, perhaps two, and
none is any the wiser about what lay there in grim, unwanted slumber.

And after last night, after the screech and keening wail of tortured
brakes across the unforgiving asphalt, after your beloved cherry-red
Honda Civic failed to negotiate the sharp curve atop Applegate Hill,
what more are you?

Ben is a 46 year old software developer living in Shaker Heights, Ohio with his lovely wife, two cats and the last of three children, the one who has not yet escaped the nest.  His published works thus far have all been related to Lotus Notes and related technology, very dry stuff indeed.

I really do have a tendency to refer to all small furry creatures as badgers, and my family does indeed cringe. This poem came about as I was thinking of the how people try to define themselves by religion, race or region, and how little those differences really matter. It occurred to me that just as I refer to all animals as badgers, I could easily refer to all races and religions as simply people. Sadly, this is most evident in death, but I believe it is true in life as well.




Copyright 2009