"Seven bums and fourteen legs,
a brazen ecstasy which begs
the question some of us are asking -
is Peter Goulding multi-tasking?"

Martin Parker, Editor, Lighten Up Online

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The squirrel and I

After last week's miserable failure to complete the task and thus board the Poetry Bus, thankfully the Weaver of Grass set us a somewhat easier task this week. Write about flora or fauna, she said. Well, tubs of margarine don't particularly inspire me, so it had to be the fauna.

The squirrel and I

Seven o’clock on a rapturous summer Sunday morning,
Driving home, tired but intrinsically joyous
After completing another shift of nights,
Relishing the four days that spread out before me
On the road like a blank piece of paper,
Speeding down the deserted country lane,
Past hawthorn that swayed disapprovingly
And dust-coated cow parsley that tutted to its neighbour,

I rounded a slight bend
And jammed both feet to the floor,
Eyes wide awake now,
Gravel grating beneath the tyres,
Cows sniffing the rubber-laden air.
Oblivious to my racing heart,
A baby grey squirrel squatted
In the middle of the road,
Eyes blinking, fur shivering.

The advice is always to run the creature over.
Better to squash it into the tarmac
Than swerve and crash and leave behind
A tearful widow and children who would never know.
But why?
Why should my life be deemed more valuable
Than a baby squirrel’s,
Merely because my brain has developed more?
I have not developed a tail,
I cannot climb trees,
I cannot grow fur to keep myself warm
I can do wrong.
Cows protect their young,
Swans mourn their mates,
Pigs squeal with terror.
Yet my soul is more important?

I watched it and admired it its power
To stop a two ton weapon of mass destruction
Dead in its tracks.
Then it hopped into the ditch and I drove on.


  1. Hi Peter this is really wonderful journey you have captured that rather other worldly moment of as they might say in Gloucestershire dimsky moment the histus between day and evening

    "Past hawthorn that swayed disapprovingly
    And dust-coated cow parsley that tutted to its neighbour,"

    This is so evocoative of the many journeys I have made through country roads that wind and trick. Thank you

  2. Look at you with no rhymes... I can tell you don't feel entirely comfortable about it but it's got some good stuff in there. I like the bit about the tarmac - it's harsh and horrible (as it should be).
    And of course this has more than a hint of Robbie Burns and his beastie.

  3. I find it hard to believe that you cannot climb trees, lovely poem... though the picture made me think it would be something different altogether

  4. Excellent poem. Great contrast between the exhilarating freedom at the beginning and the abrupt shock of a near death experience. I even break for the pheasants and they are so stupid:-)
    thanks for sharing

  5. Loved this! Had to read it to my husband - he of the soft heart. We've been having trouble this year with birds dive bombing our car. What's up with that? Do they have a suicide pact?

  6. why indeed should one's own soul be more important than any other. Let them all live!

  7. i know intellectually that squirrels are just rats with furry tails...but they are so cute. And, in this case, powerful.

  8. What a super poem and I love the idea that all creatures are as important as we are - and quite right too. The last word says it all.

  9. Didn't think it was possible, but I like you even more now!
    Wonderful poem - full of self-awareness, and introspection and lots of choice, fine words.
    I like the way you personify the trees and the surroundings; you set the scene so well. I was worried for a moment, but you came through for me. I love squirrels.


  10. Not one rhyme, and powerfully done! (I love the line about parsley tutting to its neighbor.) I like this side of you! Poetry Bus

  11. I really like this, especially, as everyone has said (terrible arriving late)
    "Past hawthorn that swayed disapprovingly
    And dust-coated cow parsley that tutted to its neighbour,"
    and the last stanza was lovely.
    I liked the sentiment and the delivery. Good one, and different.

  12. Thanks everyone.
    Gwei, yes, sometimes we forget to look around ourselves.
    Rachel - wobbling madly without my stabilisers!!
    Niamh - ah once, I could shin up a tree like a squirrel, now there's not many that can bear my weight
    CFM - yes the rabbits on the Intel site actually wait in the verge and then dash out in front of us as we pass
    Bug - now that sounds pretty Hitchcockian. Any new love birds in the neighbourhood recently?
    NanU - we're all animals just with different strengths and weaknesses
    EW - like a snail is a slug with a shell?
    BT - many thanks. I was chastened (for a bit, anyway)
    Kat - kind words indeed. If only I were as magnanimous towards the slugs in my garden
    Oak - as Rachel said, I'm not very comfortable with free verse but its a change!
    Titus - thanks for that. (Monday is not late for the Poetry Bus!!)

  13. I am with you on that journey Peter - lovely - and I love the imagery of the cow parsley - one of my favourite plants and much maligned, rather like the grey squirrel.

  14. I was waiting for the punchline... and it stayed beautifully semi-serious, which made it even more powerful.. and nice to hear about someone else who engages brakes for creature kind... I did the exact same thing yesterday for a red squirrle.. on a blind bend... it was a happy ending for both of us luckily :-)

  15. I can't tell you how many times I've done this, and every time I tell myself I must not do this again (for the reasons you give). I think it would take a hard person to keep going. I also think this is a very, very powerful poem.