Two Poems


The man in the squirrel suit woke me from an uneasy sleep. I heard him digging
in the backyard, and his hole was so deep that I could only glimpse his sleek
grey ears—until I drew close. I stood there watching him rip into the ground
and hurl up earth. While I was annoyed at being awakened, I was impressed by
his ability to break up the hard ground. When he noticed me, he paused and
turned his stygian eyes toward mine. I thought it might be my neighbor, Glen
Forney, inside the getup. But I didn’t want to ruin the moment, so instead of
asking who was in the costume I asked what he wanted in the ground.
“Treasures long ago forgotten.” When he replied, his tail twitched, as
though passing electric current up to his mouth. It sure didn’t sound like
Glen’s voice. I tried to be more specific with my next question and asked if
he was looking for nuts. Yet the man in the squirrel suit had had gone back to
digging, and I realized I wasn’t going to get anything more out of him. I
suddenly felt very tired and wanted nothing so much as to stop this racket and
return to bed. It was too late to call my pest control guys, so I headed toward
my garage, thinking I’d get a shovel to end this nuisance. Only after I
flipped on the lights in the garage and started to rummage through my tools did
I realize that the shovel was missing: I’d lent it to Glen, a few months ago,
and he’d never returned it.


It started with a lie about a tunnel
leading to buried treasure. After
my brother lured me out back

to inspect the little hole he had started,
he urged me to help him mine it.
Once the opening reached down

two feet, he declared we deserved a break,
said hard work rated rewards, explained
people on vacations covered themselves

with dirt all the time. I knew better
but didn’t complain as he directed me
into the opening, then began to blanket me

under layers of sod. I didn’t say a thing
when he revised his story: this was
a dress rehearsal for my burial—

an event he had been anticipating
for years and years. I knew I could say nothing
to change his course, so kept my mouth shut

as soil encircled my chin like a dark collar.
Through gritted teeth, I could still taste
the earth: wet pennies on my tongue.

Once my brother finished, he waved
goodbye, and it was a relief
to be alone, unable to move;

it was warm in the ground, like being
in a sleeping bag, and I began to
lose feeling in my limbs. I fantasized

about life as a bodiless head—
no toes to be stepped on,
no arms to be pinched,

and in my cerebral haze I began to doze,
almost in ecstasy, falling under
the spell of sleep—

until I remembered the neighborhood dogs
roamed free every evening, imagined
this might become an interminable holiday.

Then everything I had tried to forget
erupted, sent hot blood pounding up
into my head, and I began to sing,

crying like Orpheus in a voice
I hoped would be powerful enough to
help me escape the underworld.

—Noel Sloboda, York, PA