by Camille McCarthy

From my seat on the curb, the groundhog looks like a giant wooly caterpillar
pulsating across the gravel, lavish pelt obscuring her feet.
She scurries across the lot as a car growls close, disappearing behind a dumpster.

I hope you do not look at the groundhog and see
a mirror of yourself, as I do.
I hope you do not hear her warning whistle
when she stands on hind legs, alert as a prairie dog,
and think of the whistle you keep in your purse
in case of an attack.

I hope you relate to the way
she looks you right in the eye,
but not the way she moves: furtively, tentatively,
ever-ready to scurry into her hole in the ground.

If you see her leathery claws, I hope they remind you
of your strength, your tenacity,
and not the idea of spending your life
scratching out a space to hide inside.

I hope you do not grind yourself down
like she grinds her incisors,
for her ivory-white teeth grow one-sixteenth of an inch every week
and you do not have such luxury.

I hope her gender roles sound old-fashioned to you:
the couple stays together for about a month;
once the birthing-time draws near, the male disappears.
Blind, hairless chucklings
are reared by the mother.

Groundhogs are pushed to the peripheries
and forage only at times when predators are least likely;
I hope this doesn’t remind you of last week,
when you decided not to go dancing
because the late hour made it dangerous,
or of the time you did not say Hello to a man who made you uncomfortable
and he wrote you a vitriolic email about how awful you were.

But if, in fact, the arc of history does not bend toward justice
and this analogy fits you completely,
I’ll remind you of the groundhog’s greatest talent: digging.
Breaking open the ground like those who break the silence,
dredging up bottom-dwellers who thrive in shadows
and the buried secrets of ages long past,
the groundhog’s earth-moving can crack a solid foundation
and swallow farmers and tractors whole.

Camille McCarthy is a tutor and substitute teacher in Asheville, North Carolina. She spends much of her time on activism and her work has been published in Bohemian Renaissance.

About Digging—This poem came out of an assignment for a class on Eco-Literature. The inspiration came from observing groundhogs in March in an empty field slated to be paved over.