By Kate Sweeney
Feature image: Madonna, 1895 by Edvard Munch
threw a dead groundhog on my porch
the night after I stole her boyfriend.
My mother called the cops and the officer
knocked at its gut with his boot and blood drooled
from a bullet hole. That’s some good aim,
he said. Tell your daughter to watch out.
Years later, I tell this to a former student of mine
as we lay in bed, a Czech twenty-something
with a secret girlfriend in Prague.
Hanna, moje milovat—which he whispered
into his phone—was not hard to Google Translate.
I imagined how she could die. A slip down the stairs,
a misstep in front of the city bus. Rat poison is sweet,
the bottle under the sink whispered. Do not ingest.
Groundhogs are not native to the Czech Republic,
so he began to read about them, learned their nicknames,
the length of their burrows and lifespan.
He signed the tiny cards attached to my gifts, Love,
Your Woodcock. He probably meant Woodchuck.
And each time, I thought of Meg, the beautiful
redhead named after the Patron Saint of Animals
and how much she and that martyred rodent
did for my sex life: how the boy I took from her only
held me closer that summer in case she surprised us both
with her .22. Or, how I giggled when my Chesky
recited all the names for groundhogs in broken English,
marmot, monk, gopher, lawn-digger, woodchuck,
whistle pig, land-beaver, target practice, dirty rat.
And how his words were met with the same burn of jealousy
even when I opened my chest to him and he fired off again.
Kate Sweeney’s chapbook, Better Accidents, was published by Yellow Jacket Press. Her book, Worrisome Creatures, is forthcoming from Madville Publishing (2022). Her work has also appeared in Best New Poets 2009, Meridian, Rattle, Tampa Review, and Poet Lore, among others. She teaches at Saint Leo University and for the non-profit, Keep St. Pete Lit.
Feature image: Prints and Drawings Department Purchase Fund, Courtesy Chicago Institute of Art.