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Steven Cushing


“They’re just big mice to me,” says the fat man,
As he feasts on the flesh of the desperate deer buck
Who dared to nibble at his rhododendra.
“Pests, a nuisance, good riddance.”

In the distance a doe and fawn
Run through a barren forest.
Run, from the bitter coldness.
Run. Together. Alone.

                          The Squirrel


No one told the squirrel that he’s not supposed to like
The cayenne pepper that I added to the birdseed.
Every day I see him eating, out beyond my window,
Mooching off the nourishment I offer to the birds.

Nor is he deterred by falling off the rolling feeder,
Even though it gives him not a single place to stand.
He sees that he can eat the seed that falls to Earth beside him.
And others even join him, as it settles to the ground.

Nothing I’ve attempted yet has had the least success,
To make this pesky critter give up hope and go away.
Perhaps if I befriend him, and accept him as my neighbor,
Annoyance and frustration will then take their leave instead.


Very few acorns have fallen this year,
After bountiful harvests for two years before.
One report said that it’s from global warming,
Another that, maybe, the trees are fatigued.

Trees that had tendered a tenth of a ton
This year dropped down to yield under a pound.
Most of the wildlife, sadly, goes hungry.
Much, to my sorrow, will certainly starve.

I’m glad I decided to welcome my neighbor.
I just hadn’t seen he was suffering so.
How wondrously different the world can appear,
When I choose to change my point of view.

Steven Cushing first learned of the dharma through conversations with Gopal Sukhu in 1963. He has been feeding birds (and, reluctantly, squirrels and deer), since he moved out to the country in 2001. This is his second appearance in this Review. Among his many other publications are Fatal Words: Communication Clashes and Aircraft Crashes (1994), How You and Your Computer Think Alike–And Don’t: An Exploration into the Nature of Mind (2011), and an essay in the November 2011 issue of The Vocabula Review. He is on the faculty of Cambridge College in Cambridge, MA, and the Assisi Institute in Brattleboro, VT. You can contact him at