Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Counting Groundhogs

     I grew up in a town about 25 miles from Punxsutawney, PA -- and Groundhog Day on February 2 was local-news only. This was the quiet time before television cameras mades stars of groundhogs and, back then, we knew them for their underground piracy as well as for their weather-forecasting.
     My father, a farmer, did not like groundhogs; he tried to keep them away from his fields by blocking their entrances to the networked burrows where they chewed the roots of crops planted overhead.  Fifty years after these farming days, I arrived at the following "what is this world coming to?" poem that features my mother and me watching groundhogs play in a field outside her sickroom. (The poem is, approximately, a sonnet -- in which the poet is not only counting groundhogs but also counting syllables . . ..)

   Pennsylvania Farm View   by JoAnne Growney 

   The green florescence of a young alfalfa field
   is streaked by dots and darts of playful brown—
   a hundred groundhogs celebrate a summer day
   as those oblivious to death are free to do. 

   I see them from the window of my mother’s room
   where she’s confined in bed from stepping out
   onto a stair she thought was there.  A fall,
   and now a taking stock — I count the rodents
   and forecast many nibbled roots.  Such thieving
   didn’t happen when my father lived and farmed. 
   I squeeze her hand; we wrinkle noses with attitude
   toward groundhogs and hyped-up Groundhog Day. 
   She ends this rodent chapter with soft pride,
   telling how she -- even at five -- could spell Punxsutawney.

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