Taken at the Torrington Gopher Musuem in Torrington, Alberta, Canada

Along the symmetrical line that divides the land

where the black dirt gives way to the tawny sand;

where the trees bow dominance to the shrub

sat on a rock a portly old gopher named Gnub. 

He just sat still and waited,

silent but not expecting with breath bated

 the arrival of the most strangest of his ‘friends’:

 a fox (which really bucked the animal kingdom’s prey and predator trend). 

Once a year they upon this place did they meet

in order to make their sworn vow to the other viable still – complete.

The sun had almost settled into her duned night nest,

Having blazed all day, and earned her daily rest

when a pair of red ears with black tips in the underbrush did to Gnub’s eyes did appear.

From the distance Gnub gave a mock chide, “About time you got here!”

From the shrub weaving to and fro closer to Gnub

Came a weak laugh and “don’t I know it, bub!”

Gnub slid from his rocky perch onto the ground

as the breaking of tender dried twigs boomed their crackling sound,

the fox was now in the open only a few feet from the oft mis-called prairie dog –

 its fur blooded, matted and dull fur caused Gnub to whisper “oh, my god!”

“I do look a bit of a fright,” the fox sheepishly said. 

Keeping his horror in check Gnub answered, “You look mostly dead.”

The fox slumped to the ground, no longer having the strength to stand

“At least in death I won’t feel the pain,” he dead-panned.

Gnub watched the fox’s chest unevenly pant in and out,

This would be their last time here he had no doubt.

It was when the wind shifted between the two

That Gnub caught a sniff and eyed the gangrene puss goo.

 Gnub looked down where there had been a glorious bright crimson lush bushy rump

Only to find a bloodied, rank smelling stump-

There were no words that came to Gnub’s mind.


The fox’s tongue lolled on his black lips as he too looked at his behind.

The fox gave a sad smile “It’s rather apres pros –

Considering how we came to meet, isn’t though?”

Gnub said nothing but looked at the fox with confusion

Hoping that perhaps that this was all an illusion.

Without prompt the fox began to relate

How he had come to such a fate.


“I had been out hunting when I came upon something flat and shiny,”

The fox sighed in a voice so tiny.

“It tried to bite me but I was to fast,

But alas my victory in escape did not last –

I ended up running into a lined cave

And the entranced closed on me before myself I could save.

For three rising of the stars I tried to bite, claw and gnash

Through those shiny sticks to make a dash,

But it was no use

I could not get loose.

The morning dew had just gone from my cold floor

When I was something that chilled me to the core;

It was one of those large beasts that I usually away from hid –

It took me out and with a long fang in its paw and my tail from me rid.”

Gnub, to the fox, looked at him quite grave,

“At least you were able to fight and get away for your life to save.”

It was the first time that Gnub had seen the fox on that day

His visage of brave indifference fade away.        

“That is the heart of the matter,

It let me go as my blood all around did splatter.”

Gnub could not believe his ears

And his mind raced to their first meeting back a few years.

It was three years when mistakenly from the forest green

 did a fox kit walk into the desert that it had never seen

The fox had heard his mother’s yip for him to return to her now

but what child investigating newness gives temperance to such motherly disallow?


The surrounding scents were different yet the same thought the kit

and after all the hare tracks that led him here went on for a bit.

 A hare was a skittish creature

and would not go where danger was a feature

did the kit rationalize,

besides the only thing around was this ground that did ebb and rise. 


With nose buried halfway in the sand the hare smell led him further out

and what a proud catch the hare would make – to boast about.

The kit’s interest in the hare was nothing but seedy,

For it was not hungry merely greedy;

He did not consider the ramifications of what was in the making –

It was his contention that that all in the world was his for the taking.


Gnub had been around times two the new dry season

 and had journeyed close to the trees for a reason,

he was scouting for water and food for his kin

 as their current location was becoming barren and resources thin. 


Usually very  aware

but the shapes and the sounds of the wind buzzing in the foliage divided his care. 

He hopped onto a rock to watch a branch sway

only to have a bushy red tail passing by take his precarious footing away.

 He landed on his back against the rude intruder’s hind end

 so Gnub immediately bit into it as a firm message for manners to send.


“Ouch!” Cried the fox kit, snarled until his mouth was a slit.

He looked at the brownish furred plump animal dusting himself off rather curt

and spat out, “What was the nip for, squirt?”


 “Your inattention,” Gnub squealed back. “And mine,” 

Ignoring the kit’s sharp teeth as a danger sign. 


The kit’s paw came down hard on Gnub’s frame.

“Should I kill you now or play with you a game?”

 said the kit with eyes ablaze,

which oddly enough did not to Gnub phase. 


“Oh do please desist your tripe,

for your youthful appearance you have no idea if I’m your type.”


“Matters little to me,

I am Embertail you see,” the fox said. 

“Anything I see is my toy

and I’ll do with you whatever is my joy.”


Gnub did not squirm from the pressure of the kit’s footed grip

For it was it was his thought that he had no use to fuel the kit’s power trip.

“You may notice that I am not in my top shape right now – thin;

The season has been tough – I don’t think I’d for you make a decent din-din.”


“Of course you wouldn’t, but fortunately I have already fed –

the only goal is to let you know that I was the one who made you dead.

Enough chit-chat, you will now feel each claw

 as they tear you slowly apart exposing your insides raw. 

As you lay there this you will see is my tail;

and rue the choice in making me wail.”

 Gnub snorted in contempt then with a voice full with scorn,

“You would do that? Just leave me alive and torn?

I understand killing for food to eat,

but how senseless is the drum you choose to beat?”

The fox called Embertail began his game

Though to Gnub it was torture just the same.

Gnub would be allowed to get up to his paws in order to run

Then the fox would smack Gnub back to the ground in fun.

Gnub tried to just lie on the sand and not move

But Embertail would simply bat him violently leaving in the sand a groove.

It seemed to Gnub hours when there came disturbance in the hidden shrubbed trail.


A much larger fox growled as it bounded from the dense shrub nervously looking around,

Its body staying close to the tawny ground. 

“What have I told you about straying?

 You know you are to be where I tell you to be staying!

 It is far too dangerous for a little kit like you out in the open I fear,

it is time for you and I to get far from here!”

The kit rolled its eyes in embarrassment and assured

“Oh mother, don’t be so absurd –

 you worry too much,

we are strong, cunning and such,

nothing can harm me!”

Embertail’s mother however spied what Embertail had failed to see,

For less than two feet away from the gopher and the kit

Was something else that had been around the rock within a self dug pit

And was not overly happy that it’s afternoon nap

Had been interrupted and the annoyance continued to orally flap.

“Embertail!” his mother growled even more sternly and with urgency,

 out of the corner of her eye she saw that her kit was in a state of emergency.

Embertail’s amusement had disturbed a western coral snake

from its cool sleep to a heated awake, furious with the movement and noise;

 it was swaying violently in its striking poise.

The mother fox took a step forward to her inattentive and uncaring kit,

never taking her eyes off the open mouthed snake’s fangs covered in venomous spit. 

Embertail gave the snake a sharp defiant bark

 and sprayed a pawful of sand at his dangerous mark.

Mother fox saw the snake tighten its coil. 

The moment the snake leapt the mother fox set its plan to foil.

The coral snake’s venom should have not done anything but to the fox stung

Yet it coursed through her body and paralyzed each lung.

Embertail did not know that his mother was weak and malnourished,

Feeding him both his and her share to ensure that her kit flourished.

Deep into the mother fox’s shoulder did the snake’s fangs slide,

And as the venom pumped in she never once cried

Knowing her kit she had made safe and sound

Then collapsed paralyzed to the ground.

Embertail’s mother shook and quivered

As foam bubbled and spewed from her mouth as it violently shivered.

Horror grasped both Gnub and Embertail as they crouched back,

Stunned by the effects of the snake’s attack.

The snake, its full venom load gone though not into the intended flesh of the kit

Slithered quickly away to find a cool quieter place to respite.

“Mother!  Mother!” Embertail cried out but within a minute her mother’s body was still:

 to the desert sky it announced that the snake had made a kill.       

Embertail’s eyes were a mix of anger and grief,

Gnub would be the outlet for the kit was his firm belief.

He ought to run while the fox was distracted

But Gnub’s mind refused to allow his body to safely itself be extracted –

Instead his paw patted the kit on the shoulder.

“She meant a lot,” Embertail whispered, “I should have told her.”

The fox rasped a harsh yip of woe,

How could this have ended so?


The kit looked at Gnub with glistened over eyes,

“I have cursed my kin to say their Earthly good-byes,

 I am ashamed –

and for this till I am with her again I shall be unnamed.


At this spot every year I will return here at this time

to ensure that I never fog over the depth of my self-involved crime

As you are the witness to my mindless greed I plead

 be here as well to seal the memory of my selfish concede.”


Gnub was taken back to the present a cough so rough

That he felt his fur be pelted by the dried chunks of the fox’s stuff.


“Who’s to say by a different action if this outcome,

three seasons ago timed in seconds one would be different, undone? “


“May not undone but my conscious clear

of not being the one responsible for the death of my mother so dear.”


What a pair we are, the fox said in a choking voice,

“Both of us coming here as if we had no choice –

Especially you.”

Gnub snorted, “there’s pleasure to see you so pathetically rue.”


The fox gave a weak snort

“To think you as my co-hort!”

The fox then gave a heavy wheeze

Followed by a violent blood filled sneeze.

With pain apparent with every movement slow

The fox sat up and wetness from his eyes did flow.

“I want you to know that I appreciate that each year you did come

To mark my actions so dumb.”


“Quit such nonsense,” Gnub demanded,

Uncomfortable with the fox being so candid.

The fox’s front legs started to stiffen and shake,

His voice trembled out, “Too soon – I have so much up for to make.”

Gnub’s paw went to the space between the fox’s ears and patted the furred curled part

As the eyes of the fox rolled back his death did start.

With a last breath said the fox, “I’m sorry I wronged you, my friend.”

Gnub looked at the fox, replying, “The wrong long ago you did mend.”
The land went silent and calm;

A fox and a gopher shared with the other each a pawed palm.


Though the fox had passed Gnub did not leave the place

but sat once again upon the rock to address the concern he did face;

Was the intent of a young kit long ago in

Strong enough to stem the natural flow?

Would nature turn itself away

And shun the fox as dead it lay?


Night fell yet Gnub did not sleep,

nor did he to himself mutter or say a peep,

 he simply looked at the carcass

 as night into morn did time pass.


Around the time of the high sun

faint shadows began to circle and larger the dark stain did run

 scavenger birds one by one until there were ten

landed and pecked hungrily at the fox’s corpse tearing it open. 


Gnub watched with sickened calmness at the feast,

the recycling organic frenzy that out to claim every beast.

He looked at the sky with a squint hoping that the message was sent –

the fox was allowing others to survive; it was his final atonement.

Along the symmetrical line that divides the land

where the black dirt gives way to the tawny sand;

where the trees bow dominance to the shrub

ran along the ground a gopher named Gnub.

The crests of the sand waves tickled his underside

Though they could not Gnub’s thoughts deride.

Why had he not on that first day simply run away?

Why did he return each year after

as asked by a thing that attempted to be his master?

Perhaps the idea of hunting for fun

meant his sense of worldly balance was undone;

perhaps it was that in a pessimistic view

hoped each time the fox his innards would strew,

proving that one cannot change their perversion

no matter how it causes one’s own aversion.

That first year anniversary Gnub expected the worse,

the fox would show up , attack the gopher and curse.

Gnub had discovered that perversely the tables had turned

for now it was Gnub who had desire the see the fox debased and burned.

The nameless fox though never harmed with even a word Gnub

But instead talked of his life as if Gnub was a mother – sub.

The second year Gnub felt for the nameless fox concern

 that he would see no fault and his name again yearn.

Now on the third it was with emptiness knowing his brother,

Who in Gnub’s mind could no longer his name smother,


Who unfairly had a life meant to fail,

That there would be no other time for the two to bond

And alone Gnub would be when the next day dawned.

Entered in the Poetry Potluck


10 thoughts on “Gnub

  1. wow, I admire your writing ability here…
    regardless what it is in realty,
    love your take on it, fox is not bad after all…

    everything exists for a good reason.


    1. Thanks, and you know, I haven’t figured out the reality of the piece as of yet. I suspect that I really should but my brain has yet to deem me worthy of such knowing as of yet. I like that take on things, everything exists for a good reason, though it’s a hard sell on taxes…


  2. ‘in order to make their sworn vow to the other viable still – complete.’

    ‘This would be their last time here he had no doubt.
    It was when the wind shifted between the two’


  3. “Gnub had discovered that perversely the tables had turned

    for now it was Gnub who had desire the see the fox debased and burned.”

    For me, this line shows how our hypocritical actions are often subconscious. We say we could “never be like that” and then the mood jumps on us.

    Rhyme Me a Smile


    1. It’s a strange thing, our subconscious, we strive to be so much about our sense of community, whether it be social, political or economic situations, yet when it comes down to the bare bones, egocentricity seems to kick in and we have to both be aware of the world and ourselves.


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