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Squirrel on an October Late Afternoon

by Tiffany Troy

*This poem was written in response to our vintage series illustration prompts. You can see all prompts here.

At the height of my suffering

there appeared a squirrel

at my feet nibbling away,

their luscious tail brushing against

my knee socks as I hold tight

to my chest the white lilies

and a leaf sharp as blade

and feel intently,

the swell of my nipples, that yellow muck

of bacteria, the crust of my skin crispy,

my garment tied with rope girding

an equator of red.

They call me Little Maria and forget

I have become a woman

underneath the Fragonard rococo,

the pinch of my black Sunday church shoes

cracking open my toe nails,

the melanin of my hair paled

to an oak brown with slivers of white

bound tightly by a mahogany bonnet

I ate pills to not self immolate.

I am steroid-induced hunger

as the unwelcome sun sets on my skin.

I hate it as I hate God,

as I hate life for giving me hope,

hope which rises on a warm afternoon

when the leaves are gilded gold-rimmed

before they fall, swinging in the wind.

Soon the Catholic school children will roam

giddy for chocolate gelts for Halloween

but before the sun sets

this late afternoon,

before I put away the itching under my nails

to bid farewell to the parishioners,

in this square that is mine,

I am touched by the handsome squirrel

bent over one nut

as if it’s the only thing in the world.

Oh gosh, what pure joy!

What a one-up for this wayward

New York transplant who has learned

to curse in corporate professional

against the stone walls setting the parameters

of my faith as above me

the frowning sunflowers burdened

by the weight of their golden mane

cannot help

but peak up and beam.

Tiffany Troy is a critic, translator, and poet. Her reviews and interviews are published or forthcoming in Adroit Journal, The Cortland Review, The Los Angeles Review, EcoTheo Review, Heavy Feather Review, and Tupelo Quarterly, where she serves as an associate editor.


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