The Oldest Living Thing in L.A.

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At Wilshire & Santa Monica I saw an opossum 
Trying to cross the street. It was late, the street 
Was brightly lit, the opossum would take
A few steps forward, then back away from the breath 
Of moving traffic. People coming out of the bars 
Would approach, as if to help it somehow. 
It would lift its black lips & show them 
The reddened gums, the long rows of incisors, 
Teeth that went all the way back beyond 
The flames of Troy & Carthage, beyond sheep 
Grazing rock-strewn hills, fragments of ruins 
In the grass at San Vitale. It would back away 
Delicately & smoothly, stepping carefully 
As it always had. It could mangle someone’s hand 
In twenty seconds. Mangle it for good. It could 
Sever it completely from the wrist in forty. 
There was nothing to be done for it. Someone 
Or other probably called the LAPD, who then 
Called Animal Control, who woke a driver, who 
Then dressed in mailed gloves, the kind of thing 
Small knights once wore into battle, who gathered 
Together his pole with a noose on the end,
A light steel net to snare it with, someone who hoped 
The thing would have vanished by the time he got there.

© Larry Levis