No Ideas But In Things by Jessica Greenbaum

by Vanessa

We checked the vents and hidden apertures of the house,
then ran out of ideas of where it might be open to the world.
So we couldn’t figure out how the squirrel was getting in.
We each had methods that succeeded in shooing him,
or her, out the door—but none of them lasted. Whether
it was the same squirrel—terrified when in the house, and
persistently so—or various we couldn’t tell because,
tipped off by a glance, he zigzagged from froze-to-vapor,
vanishing, Zorro-like, until signs would tell us he had
revisited the sideboard to dig in the begonia. (Escaping
Newcastle in a search for coal.) We plotted his counter-
escape, laying a path of pecans to a window opening
on the yard. A few days would pass, and, believing him
gone, we felt inexplicably better than when we began.
Then, from another room, the amplified skritch of nutmeg
being grated—and, crash. Bracelets off dresser tops, bud
vases, candy dishes, things houses have that the back yard
doesn’t. You don’t think of squirrels knocking things over,
but inside it was like living with the Ghost and Mrs. Muir.
When we couldn’t trust the quiet or prove his absence,
we cast him as that hapless shade: worry. Our own gray
area, scat-trailing proof of feral anxiety. But after a few
cycles of release-and-catch I grew bored with the idea,
with its untamed projections. Since he dashes up walls,
(yanked, like a pulley), or seeks treasure in a five-inch pot,
daily, why not adopt him as optimism’s travelling rep?
I tried. But the sun comes up, we step toward the stove,
and he shoots out like a cue ball, banks off the kitchen door
—what mayhem is caused by going to make coffee!—
and the day, again, begins with a shriek. We are now in
week three and I accept that, inside, the squirrel is going
to stand for something else. And so is the May rain
and so is the day you took off your coat and the tulips
joined in with the cherry blossoms and the people came out
and the pear-tree petals floated down in polka dots
around the tulips, and even around the cars. We name life
in relation to whatever we step out from when we
open the door, and whatever comes back in on its own.

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