Gassing the woodchucks didn't turn out right. The knockout bomb from the Feed and Grain Exchange was featured as merciful, quick at the bone and the case we had against them was airtight, both exits shoehorned shut with puddingstone, but they had a sub-sub-basement out of range. Next morning they turned up again, no worse for the cyanide than we for our cigarettes and state-store Scotch, all of us up to scratch. They brought down the marigolds as a matter of course and then took over the vegetable patch nipping the broccoli shoots, beheading the carrots. The food from our mouths, I said, righteously thrilling to the feel of the .22, the bullets' neat noses. I, a lapsed pacifist fallen from grace puffed with Darwinian pieties for killing, now drew a bead on the little woodchuck's face. He died down in the everbearing roses. Ten minutes later I dropped the mother. She flipflopped in the air and fell, her needle teeth still hooked in a leaf of early Swiss chard. Another baby next. O one-two-three the murderer inside me rose up hard, the hawkeye killer came on stage forthwith. There's one chuck left. Old wily fellow, he keeps me cocked and ready day after day after day. All night I hunt his humped-up form. I dream I sight along the barrel in my sleep. If only they'd all consented to die unseen gassed underground the quiet Nazi way.
From Our Ground Time Here Will Be Brief, by Maxine Kumin, published by Penguin Books. Copyright © 1972, 1982 by Maxine Kumin. Used with permission.
The author of numerous collections of poetry, Maxine Kumin received the Pulitzer Prize for her book Up Country: Poems of New England, which received the Pulitzer Prize.
Date Published: 1972-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/woodchucks