“Miracle enough was that I saw,” Cati Porter’s small mammals begins. Maternal love is extended to an assemblage of creatures big and small, with a focus on those most misunderstood of mammals, the human teenager. With equal parts curiosity and concern, small mammals bears witness to what it means to be tender, vulnerable, and alive.
Miracle enough was that I saw
the young mole at all—exposed
as he was, trundling clumsily,
a furry chocolate sausage with legs
crossing an ocean of asphalt alone,
snout to the ground, pressing
forward at top speed, which is to say,
not very fast at all. In fact,
every few inches he stumbles, does
a barrel roll, rights himself. The road
is no place for a mole: intractable, impossible
to burrow. I stop in the middle.
At this pace he'll fall prey
to a cornering car, stooping hawk
or loping cat. Tenderness traps me,
drawn to become his unlikely ally.
I redirect with my sneaker, stand guard
as a car rounds the bend. Up against
the insurmountable curb, wouldn’t it be
easy to leave him—let what may be, be—
but instead I bend, clasp the velvet
of his midsection, deposit him
beneath shrubbery where instinct
drives his little digger hands
to turn earth, tunnel under,
rump waggling until he vanishes,
not so unlike watching my own son
drive off alone for the first time, the distance
lengthening forever between us.
First published in Cholla Needles 2022.
"Miracle enough was that I saw” reads the first line of small mammals. Her poems help us track the baffling passage of time, help us remember mothering is not for the fainthearted. This collection thrums with pain and loss, yet it also vibrates with love and hope. A clear-eyed, keen-eared miracle of a book.
Gayle Brandeis, author of Many Restless Concerns