Zoic: Raccoon: A Series of Prose Poems


(Photo: Peter Steffen/Getty Images)

Miguel Alves

1: The First Night We Met

The first night I met you, the cold winds were unforgiving. The trees danced, rapidly swaying back and forth to a violent beat outside my window. You approached me, cold and small — a frightened raccoon huddled beneath the shelter of my back door. You were a victim of this winter night, and I was sympathetic; never before had I seen such despair from a kind like you. I suppose it’s just like me to play the savior, so I offered you some leftover food from my pantry, and you gratefully took it. That was last night. I never expected to see you again.

But tonight, you have come back.


2: Fair Exchange

A week has passed, and you continue to come back every night at the same time, like clockwork. You never stay for long, but I don’t mind; an innocent raccoon gets the help it needs, and in return, you provide me with some company on these lonely nights. It’s a fair exchange, and I’m happy. You seem happy, too, with no intention to change the arrangement. So every night you come, every night I feed you, and then you leave. After that, I move on with my evening and the expectation that I’ll see you in another twenty-four hours. Others would say it’s not worth it, that you’re just an animal incapable of friendship, but I trust you. You’re the only one who checks up on me, after all.


3: Grown Accustomed

As more time has passed, you have only further been integrated into my daily routine. I plan to the minute, and you are now part of that — work, check; shower, check; dinner, check; you, check. I reach the door at the same time with the same hand, lay down the same bowl, and sit down in the same chair to watch. As you approach the food, your footsteps match the beating of my heart. We’ve grown accustomed to this dance, hidden from the world’s eyes. And in a lot of ways, it’s beautiful; there’s a simplicity in the way we do things that makes it very easy to get looped in with the music. Though, as we’ve been dancing for a while now, I must admit that there have been spare afternoons where I look outside, slightly hoping I’d see you there. But still, I know the rules: if you come, you come on your terms, at your time, and I will only see when the sun sleeps and no one is around.


4: No Guilt

With this routine, months have passed. I am now out of spare food and have started giving you half of mine to make up for it. I’m hungry, but it’s worth it to see you for those few minutes every day. And with that, I’ve been granted the opportunity to observe you in a way I hadn’t previously; your fur is uneven in certain places, and your eyes are a lighter golden-brown in my streetlights (for you only ever come at night). You take my food with no guilt in your expression — you must feel you deserve it. I, however, am growing less convinced. All I know is when you look at me with those brown eyes, I can’t say no. I pour my dinner in a bowl and lay it down for you.


5: The Last Night We Met

The last night we met contrasted our first. The breeze was gentle and kissed the leaves on the ground sweetly. The stars shone, bright and beaming, and I waited for you. You arrived not long after — a bit later than usual, nonetheless — and I laid down the bowl, my biggest offer yet. It was all of my dinner; I didn’t have the appetite to eat it anyways, but you very much did. You ate it hungrily and turned to leave. Before I had the chance to think about it, I blurted out my thoughts, asking you to stay with me. You faced me with a somber expression, and I knew it wasn’t possible. You were an ever-changing creature, a raccoon, never devoted to anyone, with no passion in your bones. So I told you to go. Your long legs delicately walked away, one foot after the other. Your nimble fingers opened the door to your home, and you disappeared inside. And I?

I scurried off into the night.