In the dead of night the little Goths come out-
their startlingly masked, chiaroscuro visage
with fluorescent yellow disc eyes when light finds them,
shining like luciferin and luciferase reacting in the firefly-
and their cautious, staccato, and slinking movements
obvious against the freshly painted white picket fence,
like splashed gentian violet on a wedding dress.
In wistful November
these few straggler raccoons, huge,
in preparation for their seasonal sleep.
One enters the garden through
the square framed hole we cut for
all God’s creatures through the fence-
tabby, tuxedo, and calico kittens, ‘coon kits,
an opossum jill and her joeys, garden snakes,
squirrels, railroad-line field mice,
Mourning and Rock Doves.
He barely pulls himself though,
then arches high and stretches into his fullness,
looking like a small bear,
before he cases the yard,
before he plans his zigzag, concrete and dirt-sniffing
approach to the freshly filled plates and bowls.
This humongous, ticked raccoon
finds Sassie, a one-eyed tortoise shell cat,
left behind by a moving family
and forever having kittens,
already at the plates;
they eat in peace,
while a shy, grey-faced opossum jack
darts under an elevated outdoor fire pit-
too many critters to feel safe-
until all is quiet again.
Who blessed me with the care and
companionship of these creatures?
My little burghal, backyard zoo.
Bellied Sassie saunters slowly to the right,
to her between-houses escape route,
the masked ‘coon face keeps
checking me for friendliness,
then pins the plate with his wide, star-fish paw,
to get the outer halo of pate on the plate,
while his mate peeks her curious head
out of the fence hole, to watch
these nocturnal goings-on,
or, more accurately,
to fill those autumnal pangs in her belly.
He stares me down, grabs the Oreo I left,
then treads along the cement line to the fence,
makes a short stop to sniff
the calico cat’s grave stone,
takes a step up upon it,
then tries to heave his
exploding November girth
through the fence hole,
this foray for food coming to a close.
Small yellow leaves pepper the place-
I tediously pick them out of the food
every day this time of year-
the rows of wind-gathered, golden confetti
following the lines of concrete squares,
with gentle curves framing
the feeding and lounging areas,
and the goodness of God in the still night air.