A possum watches from the forest floor. His nervous
stare creeps up the mossy trunk of a gnarled tree
wrapped in dripping leaves, its roots like fat
serpents. Insecure beneath a shrub of purple

flowers, googly eyes glowing in the damp
cold, he tenses at the huff and stalking purr
of the passing jaguar. He peers past the nest
of parrots, who snore and squawk in their sleep,
past the lemurs, whose frail fingers cling
to aged branches and groom their striped
tails. And there, where the flow of leaves

breaks against the canopy’s summit, he squints
at the beautiful blonde owl. Her golden crest
furrows, wide eyes well aware of his lustful presence
in the burrow. She ignores his dirty smirk and diseased
odor and twists her lofty neck around; a troubling sound
disturbs the forest’s quiet midnight rest: the crash

of a bulldozer. It slams against the old tree: splinters
of rain drops, twigs, and branches. One twig punctures
her wing; a branch smacks her beak and knocks her

from her perch. The jaguar and possum watch
the machine crunch past their hiding places and gasp
at the grounded, floundering owl. The jaguar leaps
the fallen trees and mangled trunks, the glint of a dinner

bell in his eyes and roar. The owl stutters and stumbles
in the mud, crippled and confused, her body sore
and damaged from the fall. Her wing and beak bleed,
a scent that maddens the jaguar. Fangs and tongue

drool on a desperate flutter of wings. The forest screams
murder! as the possum springs, a deadly hiss
on his black lips. The startled jaguar recoils and pauses
long enough for the possum to bite and pull

the twig from the owl’s wing. The jaguar slaps
the possum—who dared to turn his back
on the predator—and prepares to pounce.

But the owl is gone! Confusion and then pain
as her talons rake the jaguar’s face. The beast twists
and swats empty air. The owl flaps and hovers
out of reach. She scratches and swipes
the great cat’s eyes until he is blinded
by blood and vanishes into the brush.

His humiliated cries retreat in the night.

The owl and possum stare, beak-to-snout, breathless
wonderment in their cold regard of each other. The rain
stops and, as more bulldozers tear through the trees, clouds
clear. Moonlight falls on the forest floor for the first time.

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