Volume 23, Number 2

Door County

Sipping coffee, we bump along
on the outfitter’s bus seeking one
last day of fun. Our young guide,
in a loud voice for 8 a.m.,
asks us to name our power animals,
since it seems we must hope to be
something more than we are,
and so we double our party
by his duck, an otter, a dolphin,
an osprey, a wolf, an owl,
and a shape-shifter from
a woman who wants it all.

At the landing, the bored driver,
a pretty girl with long brown hair
in a ponytail and long tan legs,
who didn’t bother to say hello,
unloads the gear and discovers,
stowed among the kayak seats,
a newborn, motherless mouse.
It’s so small in the palm of her hand,
eyes still closed, an oblong head
like a wedge of clay, the tiniest feet
with toenails the size of commas,
and so slender a tail.

After two hours of paddling
in Lake Michigan and clambering
on rocks, we get back on the bus
and find the orphan lying
on a sheet of blank white paper.
Look, you can see him breathing
and his heart beating and if
you put him on his back
with his little legs up in the air,

the girl goes on, smiling
and chatty now, he’ll suck milk
from the tip of a dropper!

On the ride back, she tells the guide
she got on the internet and read
all about infant mouse care
and drove the old gas-guzzler
to the general store to buy
baby formula and a package
of medicine just because it came
with a dropper—all this to rescue
a little being which not one of us
wants to be anything other
than what it so perfectly is.

—Jim Schneider