May 12, 2009

Another animal memory

"The Oldest Living Thing in L.A."
by Larry Levis, from The Selected

At Wilshire & Santa Monica I saw an opossum
Trying to cross the street. It was late, the street
Was brightly lit, the opossum would take
A few steps forward, then back away from the breath
Of moving traffic. People coming out of the bars
Would approach, as if to help it somehow.
It would lift its black lips & show them
The reddened gums, the long rows of incisors,
Teeth that went all the way back beyond
The flames of Troy & Carthage, beyond sheep
Grazing rock-strewn hills, fragments of ruins
In the grass at San Vitale. It would back away
Delicately & smoothly, stepping carefully
As it always had. It could mangle someone's hand
In twenty seconds. Mangle it for good. It could
Sever it completely from the wrist in forty.
There was nothing to be done for it. Someone
Or other probably called the LAPD, who then
Called Animal Control, who woke a driver, who
Then dressed in mailed gloves, the kind of thing
Small knights once wore into battle, who gathered
Together his pole with a noose on the end,
A light steel net to snare it with, someone who hoped
The thing would have vanished by the time he got there.

Reading this poem sparked another animal memory.  When we lived in Long Beach we often slept with the house wide open, especially in the summer.  In the hall right outside our bedroom was a set of french doors that led to the backyard.  One morning about 2 AM, Bob woke me up, saying, "Jan, wake up, there's a wild animal in our bedroom."  I found this hard to comprehend, because we had two dogs, who were great hunters and did their best to keep all critters out of our yard, let alone the house!  I thought was it a coyote, or skunk, or what?

Well, those dogs, who have since went to the big kennel in the sky, failed miserably this time.  Curled up in the bottom of Bob's nightstand was a humongous opossum, I bet it weighed 25 pounds!  (The dogs were watching it carefully!)  Bob discovered the opossum, when he petted it, he thought it was one of the dogs curled up in his nightstand, but even in his grogginess he realized the hair was much too coarse and greasy.

Like any city girl, I took charge and called Animal Control.  They didn't want to come out, but I insisted.  I refused to follow their advise to just grab it by the tail and take it outside!  I explained that I was a city girl, and I paid taxes for them to take care of problems like this.  So, they sent a very nice woman, who was appropriately garbed for the task.  She removed our unwanted friend from the bedroom and took it away to a nearby park.


  1. Oh my! Well in the house we used to live, we get visited by snakes. There's a big old Banyan Tree at the back of the house and my mom thinks they live there. I love snakes but most of the people at the house gets terrified by it. Normal reaction would be to kill it. I on the other hand wants it for a pet. My parents would strongly disagree. LOL

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  2. Wow, I bet you still check your bedroom for stray visitors to this day. I never had a wild animal in my house, but had geckos, palmetto bugs and a snake in the garage.


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