the smell of skunk travels
through the frosted air.
He rouses me from sleep,
and in my half-woken state
I wonder if he has somehow
crawled through the basement window
and made it inside the house.
I imagine him shimmying over
unstable boxes of baby clothes and coats,
unearthing toys packed away long ago.
He is searching for something
but like most skunks
he lacks a true sense of time.
He finds the photo albums,
all those smiling faces
from the wedding,
the births and birthday parties,
changes of season sealed in airtight
containers. Then he moves to the books.
I think the skunk must be literate,
rooting through novels and anthologies
looking for a narrative thread—
the plot, the characters, the twist,
and, the denouement.
He flips to the last page
to see how the story ends,
that thick strip of tail sticking out
like a bookmark among the stacks.
If that skunk saw us on the street
the next day, would he recognize us,
for he has surely sniffed us out.
A stranger among our things
touching all that I love. The sudden snap
of odor—I know he’ll come back.
He always does, dreaming himself
out of this life and into the next.