Sonoran desert pocket mouse
The Sonoran Desert Pocket Mouse: In Her Own Words
Okay, so my brain may be the size
of a wooden match head
but I’m not a dummy.
So, here’s my question
Why in this world of prickly pear
did you name me pocket mouse ?
I am not a mouse. Or even a rat.
I’m a humble rodent, well-known in these parts
as the “one-who-makes-beans-disappear-behind-her.”
Another thing, while I have your ear,
you and I live in a desert, right?
So, why would you spend your days
out in the scorching heat?
Me, I curl up nice and cool,
steeped in day dreams---
way down in my burrow of sand.
Sometimes I dream I’m dining
at an all-you-can-eat buffet, crunching
on beans of the sweet mesquite.
A taste to live for. Scrumptious.
Other times I have daymares.
Like the time I was back with my ancestors
running this way and that.
We scrambled to escape
as glaciers scraped away our homes.
It’s tough to be brave
when you’re as small
as a knuckle of staghorn cholla,
dodging the deadly feet of a mammoth.
In one of my favorite dreams,
I stood on a podium to a standing ovation
of human applause. My white chest
widened with pride to be lauded at last
as one of the original “green” recyclers.
To a drum roll of thumping feet
from my buddies, the kangaroo rats,
an announcer proclaimed: “Chaetodipus penicillatus,
if it weren’t for you and the rest of your kind,
by now, we’d be hiking the desert
knee-deep in leftover beans.”
I don’t need a clock to tell me when night has broken.
When bats fly, when darkness slides down,
an alarm goes off deep inside me,
and I’m raring to start my work.
First, I poke my nose
out of my hole under the creosote bush.
I use my big whiskers and my coarse fur
to brush the sand away.
Wow, can I make that dust scatter.
My big brown eyes scan for snakes and kit foxes.
Even my ears have little whiskers
to keep my hearing keen, for the flapping
of an owl wing
is but a whisper.
The part that’s hard,
is pulling my tail out
because I have a tail that goes on and on and continues to come and come,
dragging my built-in broom at the end.
When I’m sure all is clear, I pause
to remember my five California cousins.
Wired with tiny helmets, they soared
into space on Apollo 17, landed
on this very moon that lights my way.
They gave up their lives for research,
so I bend toward the moon with a bow.
All night long I scurry. My cheek pouches
swollen with beans. Some I eat, but most
I hoard. By morning, I’m dead on my feet.
I can’t wait to crawl back into my burrow
to sleep, to dream once more.
Maybe today, I’ll dream of my mother.
I’d like to hear her voice again,
telling me what she always told me:
“Little Pinky, don’t ever be ashamed
to be a gatherer of beans,
a sweeper of the desert floor.”
A native Chicagoan, Sandra Szelag fell in love with the Sonoran desert and moved to Tucson in 1977. She serves as a docent at The University of Arizona Poetry Center. Her poems have appeared in the Arizona State Poetry Society Journal, Sandcutters, in SandScript Art & Literary Magazine, and most recently, in Spilled, a collection by the Dry River Poets.