Questions for the Porcupine


do the sapless twigs of winter
taste any different on the tree
you’ve just girdled,
this waste of a pine?
Its whited branches light
the grove like candles,
like candelsticks.
But you with your poor eyesight
must favor the dark: hollows & cavities,
the undersides of things,
unchewed bark.
This pine was unwise to arm itself
with such soft & succulent spines.
It did nothing but hiss
like a gnawed-on road-salted tire.
Slow destroyer,
do you ever pass
those bleached roads in the air
& long for salt?

Download the MP3

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).


  1. I enjoyed the audio. Am trying to recall where Buck & I were hiking when we saw the trees gnawed into pencil points.


  2. A fine poem, much enhanced in the reading. Shades of Ferlinghetti in the vocalisation, I thought.


  3. Dave,

    I should never comment on a post in the evening after drinking whiskey. Those “pencil point” trees were from beavers — not porcupines. Good grief.

    By the way, I just watched your “bear on a unicycle” in the tree. Fantastic. I have gone way out on a limb for much less reward. . .



  4. Thanks, all.

    Beth, thanks for bringing up (albeit inadvertently) the beaver comparison, which I didn’t even think of. And I’m rather flattered to think of readers enjoying a fine whiskey while they peruse the blog.


  5. Dave, I like the hidden and off rhymes in your poem — and esp. its narrow lines, like a quill. And thanks for visiting A Walk around the Lake (not park…oops)!


  6. You didn’t divide this one into into quatrains, per se, but I like the last two quatrains an awful lot.


  7. Hi Pam – Thanks for the comment, and sorry I messed up the name of your blog in the smorgasblog! (There’s another blog in my feed reader called Once Around the Park, and I mixed them up.) Yeah, I experimented with even shorter lines, but since that’s not the way I’d conceived the poem in the first place, it just didn’t work.

    Rachel – Thanks. You mean from “This pine” on? I agree that’s the strongest part of the poem. Altogether, the poem might be a little too concept-heavy, like something out of the 17th century.


  8. The blending of earlier sensibilities and modern form is part of why I like this!


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