ODE to the PORCUPINE

Just what
was God thinking,
I wonder
when he devised you
and set you free
up in the trees?
Solitary as the sloth
with a face like a boot
your passion is
salt:
chewing the bark of conifers
yellow teeth
sharp as machetes
gnawing
sweaty shoes
handles of tools
salty with human use
sniffing out the liverwort,
the yellow water-lily
and the rock-salted debris
along the highway.
Oh be careful,
dear stupid quill-pig!
Clumsy, and greedy too,
sometimes you over-reach
in search of a tasty twig
and fall like a ripe apple
out of the tree–
to waddle forth
smelly as an old hermit
your weak eyes
searching the dark world.
Only if disturbed
do you raise up
those fearsome weapons
with their barbed tips.
I celebrate you
because you are so much
like my own heart:
slow-moving, near-sighted
and which like you wears
an undercoat of silky down
beneath its armor
of rattling quills
so ready to bristle
with anger
or love, so slow
to recover.
-Geraldine Zetzel