Aug 022015
 

Amber Homeniuk

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Raccoon

1.  the one who takes everything in its hands[1]

fat and downy, wee washer-bear descends head-
first, back feet backwards, bushy-ringed
champion omnivore, incognito i.d.,
tactile thinker in the night,
haunchy smartypants
unlocking memory,
destroyer
douser
thief

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2.fmy brother’s kits

our uncle shot their mother,
gave us three chimney cubs
with needle teeth, teddy ears,
and bottle-gripping hands

milk-whiskered, growing,
they tumbled in a row
after Tom, marching barefoot in pyjamas,
his grinning jammy mouth

imprinted

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3.fmascot

stuck in Scarberia, I hated campus on sight—
dank concrete bunker hulked over dim valley
up the creek, too many trees, and posters
plastered every door: missing, Elizabeth Bain
staring, dark-eyed

Rocky Raccoon, the ubiquitous totem,
charmless hail-fellow in a stuffed suit,
handsy caricature, button-nosed buffoon,
his big-headed bump and grind

tie-dyed frosh, the Purple Jesus party, packed
picnic tables, Tanya playing Three Man with fuzzy dice,
bedsheets strung from crowded dens, there was Jodi
her frizzies and braces and I drank eight beer!
and Ramona always barfing, needed carrying upstairs

skeevers from The ‘Shwa, pedophiles of Pickering,
rapists in the Guild, so bushy-tailed
and boys who saw me only halfway home—
we all wore shoes we could run in

our grads Bernardo, Williams
years too late unmasked:
who else did that asshole Rocky cheer
with his eerie plush leer?

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4.ffoaming at the mouth

on the grounds crew in the valley, 1993
clearing winter-damaged trees, notching trunks and
chipping limbs, still looking for Liz in the forest

the skull was in a stand of cedar,
bottom of Old Kingston Road
near Highland Creek—
a young raccoon, smooth cap of yellow bone,
all of her biters and elegant arches
cupped in my hands

that morning in the parking lot
a masked mother, fierce and frantic,
her babies trapped in a dumpster
’til from the safety of the truck bed
we slid a long branch in

at break, we read in the paper over bagels
how Karla and Dirty Debbie went dancing
when Karly Curls met her Paul—
in the photo, dark roots and frosted tips
feathered stiff, framed bludgeoned black eyes,
the horrors inside her drooping disguise

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5.froadkill

late for work again, I flew the near-empty concessions,
burned past farms behind a cherry SUV I couldn’t pass,
dogs lolling out both its rear windows, sweltering
coats flat black against back window decal,
a baby on board

noon, three raccoons hopped out of the deep ditch
gallumphed across the road, day-blind
tangled with those fat tires up ahead, terrible timing
thump rolling chaos I braked hard, swerved clear
and two bandits ran from disaster
but striped fur whipped circles in my rear-view
while the road hog with the dogs drove on,
turned a corner beyond the stop

shimmers hovered above hot pavement
I reversed fast, braced myself, missed
last bits of life ticked, I worked the transmission
and long back feet kicked, clenched and spread little toes,
black velvet pads in thick cream
paddling the air like an infant’s
offered up, soft belly,
that helicopter tail

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6.  mentor

Oh old boy

you’ve taught me all you can,
your dousing days are done.

Lie down with your snout at the stream
to rest in woods behind my brother’s house.

Let season’s green weave through your nest of sticks,
set age along the top of your white brow
with sutures fused, full sagittal crest

and quiet
those sore worn teeth.

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Them Apples

1.  Pick

among the ghosts of September
are days emphatic as egg-calling hens
tilting on their pegs like cotton candy

I stretch to haul the red-cheeked harvest down
and smears of mealy rot and crumbled bark-
stained fingers poke through

your old gloves: with how many holes
can they still be good?
which rungs do ladders need?

lips grip curves and woodsmoke
suck the sour near the core
green stems slide, catch between uneven teeth—

I cast off the not-worth-its, the stingy and gnarled
save the bird-bitten and the bug-holed
with their healed-over tough-skinned hearts

truth rolls under my ankle
fills buckets
its roundnesses bobbing in water

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2. Cut

slice and cone
dig for twisting brown tracks
free jagged curls of skin

grinding knuckles wrap the knife
work wet wood, erode bone
brass tacks emerging

think of swords

notch out the cores
open them like mouths
break their silence

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3. Stir

bruises surface from the rosy deeps,
flesh wounds seep, sticky black grains in wrinkles,
peelings divine a cidery stink

my mill churns all afternoon, spits out pith
into steam: blisters, jars, rings, lids
counted by feather-layered light

arms loaded, feet worm into moccasins
heated by back room sun,
another half-wheelbarrow

I also carry your knotted fist, a spot
just here at the back of my hip
folded like a wing

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4.  Keep

afterwards, heart-queasy and acidic,
my hands are wizened little mummies
helpless as when our girl stopped eating

last pot off the stove and cooling,
joints squeak like dry flakes of paint
jarred by every lid-popping echo

sealing up sauce in glass like myths, in this
odd season of double yolks, northern lights
and doorknobs falling off, mixed in with rattling

stars, fruit still dropping from the branches,
the thuds of celestial shot putt
tremor loose small yelps and toads

I’ve gathered the burrs and the catkins of you
caught in my clothes with memory and cinnamon
pockets full of seeds

at the edge of the field
deer pause, chewing,
bone chips hiding in their meat

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Late Bloomer

1.  Born Late

I am past due
the days already gone to seed
know it in the bass-heavy pulsing of myself
all throbbing aorta

this old jacket shrunk and wilted to the touch
me and last year’s apples and the quiet ground
and shine-worn split trousers—lived hard in, discarded
I have outgrown even my shoes
done with these thrift store threads

I will ease grief from my throat

heat calls me up from the earth
grave-risen all the way through the rotting roots
come to moult
I hook myself on and haul away at the tendons
braced against light, working

all the doors from their hinges
cracked open, oh my frail and soggy new self
herniating out through the tender razor-scraping edges

I will shed my skin, busting raw and wet
climb right out of my hide and fly away, drop it
gently as cicada shells from bark

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2.  Cicada

diving head-first and backward into deep air
my eyes without their lenses
I am sawn in half, kicking my legs out
shoulders up around my head

I will breathe open glass-paned wings to the next life
leaving behind gravity
and my clawed digging arms

just one entomological Rapture
your deserted hands
pinching crisp brown casings

trees all heaving and veiny lungs, my work half-done
distension rocking the sky
with songs of rods, reels, and muted brass
cooking, casting, and resonant monks rattling distant joy

I will bring warm and sticky life from my humming pockets

you think it won’t end—the pain or the singing—then it does
borne late into the season
my belly tympanic in the empty
our whole selves arched, hairy with need and
fast unhooking days from the year

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3.  The Singing Season

with each wing-click, I flip this mirror
trading dark packed dirt for dusty leaves

these vibrating voices turn tall cliffs to liquid
richer than sap from the source

when sound soars shaking so far
over creaking crevices and lines of vicious little ants
I will remember that I could be somewhere else

you may yet hear me keening in the branches
or hollering downhill with my feet lifting off the pedals
back-slit like coffin clothes, the living gone on from here

—Amber Homeniuk

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Amber Homeniuk works as an expressive arts therapist and sustains a variety of individual and collaborative arts practices. Her writing appears in The Malahat Review, The Fiddlehead, and here at Numéro Cinq, as well as in Windsor Review’s tribute to Alice Munro. Amber’s poems are anthologized in Beyond the Seventh Morning (SandCrab, 2013) and Window Fishing: The night we caught Beatlemania (Hidden Brook, 2013). Her first chapbook is Product of Eden: Field of Mice (Norfolk Arts Centre, 2013). So far this year, she’s been a finalist in the PRISM International poetry contest and shortlisted for Arc Poetry Magazine’s 2015 Poem of the Year. Amber lives in rural southwestern Ontario, blogs groovy outfits at Butane Anvil, and is kept by a small flock of hens.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Holmgren, Virginia C. (1990). Raccoons: In Folklore, History & Today’s Backyards. Capra Press. p. 157.

  6 Responses to “Raccoon and Other Poems — Amber Homeniuk”

  1. Wonderful,eclectic. Love your style!!

  2. Amber, what a pleasure to read these supremely well made poems. You are an immensely gifted writer.

  3. Wow! I love these. Well done, Amber.
    JOhn B.

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