Rhett Talley: ‘The Story of the Squirrel’

The Story of the Squirrel
(After Billy Collins)

I remember how that summer the squirrel jumped with glee
from one high branch to another. Though he was tree-coloured
he caught our searching eye, three boys, each, stone in hand.

The oldest always had the better aim, the stronger arm.
As he let slip the stone like an arrow from a bow
we marvelled at his shot, at his magnificent throw.

In that instant what surprise what joy we felt to see the squirrel
plummet to the ground; but as we gathered round
we saw an eye hanging from its tawny-coloured head

and bright red blood oozing onto green grass and silken moss
and a newer moment, one much different from before,
fell into us as our little-boy hearts sank

thinking of what we had done, knowing it was mean,
and learning what it was to mourn, if even for a squirrel.

Thirty years later when I asked you to tell us the story again
of the squirrel and of your throw you told it true, as I did just now,

but added that you learned since what you kill is on you, brother,
every little thing, and why you do it and if it had any deserving in it.

You also said you remembered that I was laughing hard at first
until I had seen how upset you were and that you had thought that
was strange.

Rhett Talley

Leave a Reply