by Michael Schaffner ('72)

It lies somewhere well away from here:
an Arlington of my imagination --
three centuries of brick and cinderblock become
as transient as any Mongol conquest.

In this county of the mind we first find and give back
the old name -- Namereughquena, now indefinable
except to Necostins said to survive
somewhere in Pentagon City perhaps, 
in longhouses long hid in an abandoned garage.

(Someone saw one stalking beaver by the creek just west of Ballston,
camping 'neath a dozer by a site for highrise condos,
and they had to call the rangers with their doglocks and their buffcoats,
to come ariding quickly lest developers run away.)

There are signs of something changing, changing back:
this is the forest primeval returned over the ruins of our shopping malls; 
a land raccoons and opossums never left,
who never lost their names, unlike squirrels, the Mous-som-ko.
Mous-So-Ko: think of that when you see them on the power lines,
running in the park, tearing up the garden, digging clumsy shell holes
all over the lawn -- Mous-som-ko! "I was here before you were,"
they mutter through their chisel teeth.  "Mous-som-ko!" They bark
from the tops of trees you thought were yours --
"oh look at the little squirrel! Isn't it cute?"

There are signs of something changing, like herons on the mudflats,
the ospreys on the creek, and last week a late report:
fierce Susquehannocks came to carry off
a wealthy family from our frontier with McLean,
slaughtering Grandma and little Jason because they couldn't keep up,
keeping mom and sis to breed into the tribe, while dad 
will be slowly roasted for an evening's entertainment.
This is something they won't talk about at Holly Hargett and Century 21,
even as neighboring homes go up for sale.  And in Glencarlyn,
a troop of brownies picking honeysuckle by the bike trail 
were set upon by wolves in the company
of feral Basenjis, Shar Peis and Yorkshire Terriers,
the few remains swiftly consumed by a vast conclave of eagles
who have left the backs of our quarters strangely bare.

Through it all the Mous-som-ko chatters with joyous malevolence,
as if she knew what was going on.  And who knows?
As markets fall and bridges break, fanfares fade to minor keys,
and eloquence turns to hyperbole, we too might see
as much as any squirrel.  Excuse me, Mous-Som-Ko --
singing from her treetop a song of our passing,
promising to sharpen her teeth on our bones:
"Mous-som-ko!" she says, "I am many things for many times,
but the least of everything I am is cute."

Michael's award-winning book of poetry can be purchased by writing to the publisher The Word Works, P.O. Box 42164, Washington D.C., 20015.