The porcupine climbing the apple tree
doesn’t worry about time, doesn’t ask
for understanding, doesn’t proceed by
negation; this clambering is enough
for him. He lets his hooked black claws embark
upward to a sky older than King Lear,
of whom he will survive never knowing.
He doesn’t want to turn the apple at
the branch end into a poem. Evenings,
he doesn’t dwell in a fraught gallery
of moonlight; he merely loves this scramble
heavenward. He loves the turbulent quick
of his own quills, which bristle at the qualms
the east wind bickers with brushing through fur.
And if a young girl should see him resting,
at noon, on the tip of a tree limb,
it’s enough for her to say, seeing him,
that the bough looks like a furry paintbrush
and to imply, therefore, that what’s most tree-
borne and scurrying might turn a hillside
from charcoal sketch to carmine impasto.
His Jerusalem’s the ripe red delicious
he devours lovingly, skin, core, and stem;
it is enough for him to shirt himself
in a shiver of green October leaves,
to dwell in the moments before turning.
Three hundred foxes with torches tied to
their tails once burned down the vineyards and groves
of the Philistines, but even legend
fails to awe him; it is enough to point
his spines to the sky and hackle at death,
to bite the rotten fruit and get drunk, swaying,
stiffening his balled vertebrae into
a coat of spikes against the maiming air.
It’s enough for him to love this flying.


Dante Di Stefano