Though many like to say that poems begin with “ordinary” things, creatures and experiences, there could never be anything ordinary about a hedgehog. The way it looks, the way it looks back at you, surely the way it feels — astonishing. Lola Haskins’s endearing poem from “Asylum: Improvisations on John Clare” is possibly as straightforward as a poem could be: We’re on a walk with her, then stumble upon an unexpected rustle. What makes this poem sing is the quick instant that the hedgehog image widens to contain us all — our curiosity, our fear, whatever we’re each keeping contained. In that “rush” of empathy is our unexpected lift. Selected by Naomi Shihab Nye
By Lola Haskins
Yesterday, along a walled track
I came upon a dark-brown brush
just the size of my hand. From
under it poked a narrow snout
which, when it sensed my boot,
pulled back as fast as it could.
I know that rush, that flight.
Real fear, imagined fear, it
makes no never mind. There
is something huddled in us all.
Naomi Shihab Nye is the Young People’s Poet Laureate of the Poetry Foundation in Chicago. Her latest book is “Cast Away,” from Greenwillow Books. Lola Haskins lives in Gainesville, Fla. She has published 13 collections of poetry, most recently “Asylum: Improvisations on John Clare” (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019).
Illustration by R.O. Blechman