Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Ring-Tailed Gauntlet

image from animal.memozee.com

The Ring-Tailed Gauntlet

“God answers sharp & sudden on some prayers
--a gauntlet with a gift in it.”--Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

One does need to work,
both for livelihood & pride;
that’s not in dispute.

When you are
a wage slave for more
than fifty years,

if you’re smart, you will gain
              sustenance & provide tangible 
              sanctuary for your best 
              self from the 
              surreptitious application of your poetic view
within the ragged edges of the tedious rut. 

I was fortunate that my servitude 
was midst 300 acres of Douglas Fir,
hundred year old gnarled sentinels 
surrounding vast meadows of wildflowers
on the placid shores of American Lake. 

As a dedicated VA civil servant,
        I tended to arrive on the campus hours early,
                 so that I could sit & watch the sunrise over the water
                             with Mt. Rainier in stark silhouette, or listen to the
                                    rain when the marine flow left low clouds over the
                                            gentle rippled waves wriggling with the wind,
                                    or when it was clear I could thrill to the noisy flight
                              of ten kinds of military choppers, fighters, or cargo planes,
                   seeming to just hang in the crisp morning air as they
           circled the air fields at McCord AFB & Ft. Lewis, always
competing for the sky with eagles, Canadian geese, mallards & swarming
murders of crows.

Our building, the Blind Rehab Center,
was furthest south along the lake,
with Ft. Lewis, all 75 miles of it, right there
over a low fence beyond the parking lot.
                 Deer would forage up from the forest
                 & leap that fence with ease, then graze
                 just outside our office windows; twice we
                saw black bear, & had to call for security to
                chase them back into the military reservation. 
                                    But like all gardens, all oasis, there were
                                    serpents to deal with, for we suffered a plague
                                    of raccoons, fed & cherished by the foolish.

Often at 5 a.m. as I                   hiked in from the parking lot,
                       passing through the darkness between
                  outdoor lights, thug-like raccoon muggers
              would leap out fearlessly from behind trees,
          demanding food as their tariff & tribute
for allowing you safe passage through their
          gauntlet of yellow eyes, twitching ring tails, snarls
               & sharp teeth. Since there actually had been some staff         
                      attacked, even bitten, over the years, I always felt
                            a little like Indiana Jones braving the fur gangs
                       of forty-pound rodents, yelling at them, hearing the echo
                of my anger as it shattered the quiet, sometimes having
          to take swipes at them with my cane, & hiss at them
like a two-legged tom cat, clutching at my lunch sack,
never turning my back on them
as I unlocked one of the back doors.           The VA would tirelessly trap
                                       dozens of then twice annually, & relocate them
                                       somewhere; but to no avail, because they always
                                       seemed to return in a few short weeks, bringing
                                       their whelps to teach them panhandling & mugging. 

Once inside my building, I became Master of the Watch, I owned the space
for an hour or so before the other staff members began to trickle in. I would
microwave my breakfast, brew up some coffee, click on my computer, & learn
to surf the Net; at least as much as the government overseers allowed. For 
years I was always there to greet the others as they arrived, some only minutes
before the start of business. This routine of arriving early, centering myself,
focusing my energy, meditating, & often writing poetry served me well, providing
me with the succor, joy, & enlightenment that was embedded in the outer
reaches of the often overlooked frame around each day. 

When the harness and
yoke are hung up at long last,
freedom blossoms bright. 

Glenn Buttkus

Posted over on dVerse Poets Poetics

Would you like to hear me read this "Everyday" poem to you?

My apologies for posting the wrong recitation, hear it the correct one!


X said...

I hope that Trudessa plays this time, as she will appreciate your raccoons. They are interesting in that they are cute, but they are also scavengers. And can be a bit vicious in the right circumstance. When I lived in Florida we had gators that would come to the break area, looking for similar. I always try to get in early as well. That first hour of the day before everyone else - peace.

brudberg said...

To come in early is a challenge.. and it's not rewarded that you can leave early.. I prefer my exercise on the way to work actually.. I take the care maybe once or twice per week.. writing poetry in bed is a lot more fun. :-) I have no experience from wildlife like that, but I noted tat feeding wildlife is a menace when I lived in the US... i think they are better off taking care of themselves.. I saw a program about raccoon Japan, where they are now a pest.

Anonymous said...

My lord, raccoons are the bane of my existence right now - see my recent 2am poem (written for Anthony's prompt but not in time for sharing.)
Love the final thought 'When the harness and yoke are hung up at long last, freedom blossoms bright.'

Mary said...

I enjoyed reading about your routine, Glenn. There really is something to be said for arriving early, I think. When I taught school, I was always an 'early bird' as well, being much more motivated to work EARLY in the morning than after the kids had left. Didn't see any raccoons outside though. Smiles. And no poetry writing before the school day began either. Ha. I just wanted to be ready when the kiddos arrived.

KB said...

We used to have a raccoon that came up onto the back deck where 8 cats used to loll around and eat their food. They never bothered to show it away because the food was always plentiful. IWhen I worked I always showed up an hour early--get my bearings, spend some alone time in a place that would soon be crowded with people. I guess it's like a Zen thing. >KB

Hayes Spencer said...

I was always early as well....having my breakfast by one of the many wetland ponds, sitting at my puter when it was too cold or rainy, pouring out my coffee from my thermos to savor and enjoy in peace before all the noise and busy started...35 years of civil service gone like a blink or the last bite of muffin. Raccoons are a pest around here and can be vicious. I have 4 bungees on both of my garbage cans and often go out in the morning and find them turned over with trash scattered. but the everyday is soothing...this poem of yours was calming in the routine surety of it.

Claudia said...

i get up at 5 in the morning usually and love to be up so early - greeting the day - biking to work when not even the sun's yet up... there's much beauty in this

Gabriella said...

I liked your daily routine too, Glenn. I am not a natural early bird but have learned in the past year that it can be acquired. That said I do appreciate all the things an early rise allows and that your poem evokes.

Wolfsrosebud said...

there's something special which happens early lingering in nature... it gets the heart pumping... as for the raccoon's... well, i'm a gardener and they are not welcomed

ayala said...

I love waking up early...let the day unfold. Lovely capture.

Rose Ketring said...

I loved the way you used form and space to direct the reader to particular images, sounds and thoughts. I could feel emotion turn from peace to vigilance and then back to a very meditative state. I really enjoyed the journey your poem took me on. Thank you

Clystie Pruden said...

I love the detail you always seem to add to your poems. Makes me feel as if I am right there with you. Good job again. Bravo!

Truedessa said...

Glen, you are always able to capture the reader with your woven words. I enjoyed the flow and the shape of your day..you know we have to watch out for those raccoons. I actually had an encounter with one this weekend. There is a certain peace you obtain when you arrive at work early before all the chaos begins and I like the fact I can end my day earlier as well.

Anonymous said...

This is a lovely haibun, the haiku at the end encapsulating the vivid narrative. Lovely workplace for sure!

Dell Clover said...

I salute your early rising, admirable it is--myself, I can't do it.

Kate Mia said...

Well.. the Navy station I spend decades.. as a civil servant as well.. is noted for huge
mutant jet fuel watered frogs.. in fog point morning of 'copter wings...

Amazing the depth of those bullfrog roars.. and truly
any Chinese Restaurant dreams of legs..

As a younger man.. i enjoy the waves more..
with tight breasted shirts..

and polished high heels..

but that is before the office
life part of the career.. it
takes five years of that
part to almost kill me..

Frogs or not.. or
horny toad waves..

ah.. the old terms
of the salty sailors..

and Racoon ways..:)

Marina Sofia said...

You've certainly captured the imagination of your readers with the location, the beauty of the early morning, the peace only disturbed by racoons (I thought some of us would feel strongly about them). A bit of an idyllic workplace, that's for sure...

Sumana Roy said...

beautifully captivating lines...this little discipline of early rising is so much rewarding... thanks for this wonderful post :)

kaykuala said...

Such exhaustive narration of days gone by. The beauty is in getting them into memory that one enjoys to recall every minute of fun with wildlife especially. Thanks for sharing Glenn!


Sabio Lantz said...

Fun picture of your government job, with your coloring

I use to raise raccoons -- love them
and have seen the contrast of government and private sector jobs

Victoria said...

I used to love to get to work early too, before the phone calls and interruptions. Now that time of the morning is still my favorite.

We live near the river in a semi-rural area and often entertain raccoons and other critters. Two of my neighbors have doggie doors and they have had some undesirable things happen inside their homes. One reason we let our dogs out with supervision.

Dawn Paoletta said...

This is such a delight...the morning views, the mugger racoons, story, painting and poem all in one. Steeped full of beauty, humor and detail.