I stepped out for a smoke at dawn,
as I often do, onto the fire escape.
To osmose the dense, atmospheric moisture
and that ghostly intimation—
the subtle sounds, the winding energy—
indicative of a weary world
reluctantly springing to life.
I placed my palm on that rusty guard rail:
one piece of a makeshift platform,
that was melted together from industrial scrap.
It was never meant to be a fire escape, you see;
it became one through someone else’s will—
fitted by callused hands and joined anew
by the hot blue flame of a welding torch.
Dragging on that tobacco stick, I surveyed the lawn below.
Rough, broad blades of grass,
been ripped in half again and again,
trained to hold that slightly browning ragged edge;
not permitted to mature and grow to seed.
That isn’t how a lawn is supposed to be.
Through a soft cloud of smoke, I watched a squirrel,
pudgy as an opulent island queen.
She lumbered through the arc of my gaze.
Her thick, bristling grey coat, a testament
to her success at being a squirrel.
Clutched in her maw and gripped dearly,
she dragged a dry hazelnut across the cowed grass.
With darting eyes, assessing threats—
which were apparently nil, because she ambled closer,
until directly beneath my carbon steel perch.
She buried it there—that valued fallen nut—
in a sad patch of green,
and groomed the ground with expert hands
to mask the spot.
As she departed, she over-the-shoulder glanced.
As if to say, “I trust you.”
And was gone.
Maybe I can squirrel something away—
something of my old self—
before change is forced upon me.
Made safe and preserved for a brighter time.
If I can trust you not to take it.