The last encounter I had with a woodchuck
it bolted directly at me along the edge of a gully
behind our blue cape, because I’d filled in all its
nearby holes. I froze, terrified it was going to
leap into the air and leach through my chest
like a huge drill, but it veered into the woods
and was gone in a rustle of blueberry and sumac.
A few of us kids were always looking to trap
something uncatchable in those woods,
whether it was a woodchuck or a praying mantis
or a giant tumbler-mouthed tapeworm
living in the drainage pipe just below it,
in the belly of the gully where we’d gather summer
nights to breakdance and practice hitting cans
with slingshots until our hands bled.
Just keep training and you’ll get there, I told myself,
though what I was training for I was never really sure.
Looking back, I think I was just acting out some
protective, hunter-like imperative meant to make
me feel important and garner the attention
and loyalty of my tribe.
It didn’t matter who hurt us or tried to,
or how many of his mother’s dried chiles
one of the older kids used to make us younger ones
eat like some initiation into manhood,
holes would be dug, stones would be collected
from the side of the road, and underground bunkers
would be dug adjacent to bike paths, all in
preparation for the great revolt.