Porcupine

Adam Giannelli

        Into pelt and sheen, rattans bond, tight-
slatted. At rest, sheaved
        from the front, it is wickerwork, canebrake,
                quiver of arrows, but when
provoked it erupts as bayonets, asterisk, threshing floor,
                        Cupid in a fury.

        Its strategy is not precision, but exuberance—
                a briery boast. Let the arrows fly—
gold with lead. Florescent-
        quilled, in dark makeup, like the bass player
                in an 80s band, it announces its eccentricity—
        then fades, making meager

        its own spotlight. But no porcupine can shoot
its quills, so as in any romance, its
                pierce depends on flair and
proximity. Maligned by lumberjacks and commuters alike,
                        it has been maimed, poisoned,
        and shotgun-blared. They do not

accommodate you—your salt drive,
                your night-sleuthing, your implacable whiskers.
        But we all have unlidded nights; we all have
thorns. The same gaze that forgets
                the rose’s quills makes a bonfire
        out of yours. But thorniness

                is no more than an erratic
smooth. Your paws are polished
                and pebbled. The underside
of your tail, mildly bristled to gain
        purchase as it barnacles in the branches. Above the tail
                appears a bald spot with shorter barbs—

        a meadow, a rosette that, like an open
flower, broadcasts a pungent aroma—a warning that
                accompanies the splayed quills.
        I choose you, my escaped
convict—you run with your stripes still on you.
                Although you’re slow and nearsighted,

        when you unveil your ribbons, fantailed, I feel
                as though I am entering
lightspeed. From out of the bare serene, the stars
                all striate—and you arch in monochrome,
        like a rainbow above
                        a distant hill in a silent film.

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