Manzano Mountain Review is an online New Mexico literary journal affiliated with UNM-Valencia.

Too Big to Fail

by John Hicks

Too big for the balance of predation and prey;
nonetheless the groundhog kept to his chambers
beneath our front porch.  He came and went
from an opening like a side door, its darkness
opening out onto a bed of river rock—a landscape barrier. 
Then came the drought.  Nature’s liquidity failed.
Midsummer, leaves began to drop, and exposed
the structure of our forest.  He worked late one evening
beneath my open window.  I could hear him
in the dark.  At daylight I found the rock
covered with oak leaves, a papering
in arcane patterns.  Late in the week
he emerged; began scooping up his leaves,
stuffing their stem ends into his mouth.  They bristled—
like iron filings on the tip of a magnet.  He headed south,
skirting the hill, moving woodsman-like, tree to tree,
stopping to sniff the wind and to listen. Wary.  Slipping
through the stone wall, he eased into the neighbor’s garden. 
Our drought—everyone’s—diminished the yield
of walnuts, hickory, and acorns that sustained
our forest creatures through the winter.  We paid
inflated prices for corn and seed to help
in the hungry months.  The oaks don’t produce
acorns anymore.  The walnuts and hickories
very little.  Nothing like before.
John Hicks is an emerging poet: has been published or accepted for publication by: I-70 Review, First Literary Review – East, Panorama, Midnight Circus, Mojave River Review, and Glint Review. He completed an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska – Omaha in 2016.