Raccoon Journal (Provincetown, 1984) by Stanley Kunitz (two excerpts)

from Raccoon Journal by Stanley Kunitz

To be like Orpheus, who could talk

with animals in their own language –

in sleep I had that art …


Raccoons! I can hear them

confabulating on the porch,

half churring, half growling,

bubbling to a manic hoot

that curdles the night air.

Something out there appalls.

On the back-door screen

a heavy piece of fur hangs,

spread-eagled, breathing hard,

hooked by prehensile fingers,

with its pointed snout pressing in,

and the dark agates of its bandit eyes

furiously blazing. Behind,

where shadows deepen, burly forms

lumber from side to side

like diminished bears

on a flat-footed shuffle.

They watch me, unafraid.

I know they’ll never leave;

they’ve come to take possession.

–Stanley Kunitz, Raccoon Journal (Provincetown, 1984);
The New Yorker, July 22, 1985 and Next-to-Last Things

The poem was published in a wonderful volume called Next-to-Last Things, which seems to be out of print. Perhaps you can find it in your local library. If not, I suggest you read anything available by Kunitz.

Explore posts in the same categories: 2010, In the City, March, raccoons, Wildlife/Natural History

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5 Comments on “Raccoon Journal (Provincetown, 1984) by Stanley Kunitz (two excerpts)”

  1. […] earlier post quoted Stanley Kunitz’s marvelous poem, Raccoon Journal.  Today it’s time for coyotes to get […]

  2. pat hoey Says:

    You don’t even have to open the door–on Cape Cod, they sometimes a paw (dare I call it a hand?) through the screens…

  3. mthew Says:

    Confabulating varmints! But seriously, they are fascinating creatures, beating us at our own game. Saw the bushy tail of one in its diurnal pad in Prospect Park, the tracks of another out at Dead Horse Bay, recently.

  4. Charlotte Says:

    Love this poem. when raccoons came to our door one night, they peered in, just like in the poem, making me think Elijah (in the form of a striped bandit) had come for a visit.

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