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“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.

The Mole

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


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