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The Beavers

"They flood the pasture," my neighbor explained
when we met this morning at the property line
that divides his field from mine, which is also

a meadow, although I call it a pasture
when talking to him, since a meadow is not
a place his cows would roam, but a patch

of paradise for picnics and lovers.
We had been walking around to see
what damage winter had done to the fence

and trees when we met at the marker and greeted
each other, then broached the weather and other
things regarding spring: the sap,

its grade, its run, the snow, the herd, the beavers.
"They're heading this way as we speak,"
he said. "I saw them in a dream last night."

Spirits, I thought, come back to teach
the mysteries of building houses in water,
but nodded instead like a dashboard doll.

Elders in the ruse of beavers with a genius
for damming, I wanted to tell him,
but couldn't stop nodding in

agreement with his denial of the fun
he has each summer exploding their houses
with TNT, then shooting them

from behind a wall. "Pests," he called
them, when he really meant such perfect
moving targets for catching in the hairs

of his .243. "Good luck,"
I said in a tone he didn't catch
as I continued down the row

of giant maples to the stream
to see if I could find some sign
of them, as I had in previous years—

the prints of little hands in the loam
and eaten trees, but nothing yet,
just the cold, dark water of Sackett's

Brook beneath the silence of a cloudless
sky where a red-tailed hawk besieged
by sparrows let out a cry and then another.

Chard deNiord

The Gettysburg Review

Spring 2017

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