by E. Hume Covey
When both rhododendrons had succumbed to the bitter winds of the coldest season in twenty, two hardy roses replaced them. But every new shoot disappeared at the height of its tender phase, just short of turning woody. I pretended to blame the chipmunks, but they had vast stores of seeds from the feeder across the street. Then he appeared—a serrated, rust-green leaf-end protruding from his mouth. With a dusting of cayenne pepper and blood meal on the ground, he kept his distance but after two days slinked in for little nips. He nuzzled just far enough through my ugly chicken-wire cages to damage the outer twigs. I asked for advice. The neighbor said only, “Rabbits don’t eat roses.” “Maybe not. But this one does. It just goes to show, you don’t need a big brain to be perverted.” Most eastern cottontails look identical, but he was distinctive. “That rose-eating rabbit is a visionary,” I told my spouse. “The bunnies should go on an exodus; he can lead them.” “Why ‘he’? Why not ‘she’? Did you pull back his fur and check?” “I just thought a rabbit with a weird compulsion would be male." All season long he worked in broad daylight, taking tender shoots and young leaves. The roses are thriving now; he was probably too visible. But a yarrow specialist is at work—his offspring, I’m sure— obsessively decimating that one kind of flower, hardly fazed by whatever repellent I sprinkle.
E. Hume Covey currently lives in Iowa but has deep connections to the South. Born in
Tennessee, he grew up in central Virginia, France, Italy and Germany and has spent much of his
adult life in New Orleans, Memphis and Atlanta, with a brief stint in northern Florida. He has an MA from the University of Memphis and a Ph.D. from the University of Arizona and has taught philosophy at Georgia State University and other institutions. He has recently published poems in Nonbinary Review and Deep South Magazine.