By Jenny Kalahar
Summer’s end means a lot of different things: kids go back to school, the nights are colder, the hours of daylight are fewer, and the leaves on the trees on your street might be changing color. The end of summer means something else to the animals of the woodlands, at least according to what I’ve been told. It means that it’s almost time for the annual dance and get-together of every sort and type of animal: it’s time for the Woods and Streams Ball.
The Woods and Streams Ball
When summer struggles at the end of its days
when it clings to leaves changing from greens
to new shades of orange, and yellow, and red
those are the days that the woodland animals prepare
For the Woods and Streams Ball is coming again
like it does every year when the babies are grown
and looking for mates for the long winter months
or just want to dance, and have nuts and oak punch
At this time of year, fallen leaves are sewn to make dresses
trimmed with Queen Anne’s lace, so white and so pretty
dyed with goldenrod flowers in pots along Beaver Creek
as field mice and woodchucks make birch bark suits for the gents
Owls and hawks work together stringing floral decorations
around the edges of the clearing set aside for the dance.
A scurry of brown squirrels gather nuts for the cookies
that chef bears mix up, and then bake on rocks in the sun
Soon the evening arrives for the Woods and Streams Ball
and everyone is welcome from miles and miles around.
The turtles come first since they’ve traveled for days
even though they’ve only come from just down the lane
Mice sit on toadstools alongside friendly toads
Deer nibble from bowls of late-summer berries
Young rabbits skitter under and around all the tables
as red-throated loons tune up the musicians
All here are peaceful and friendly together
chatting and laughing and retelling old stories.
Dusk dims the field and beeswax candles are lit
announcing the start of the dancing at last
Bullfrogs harrumph-a-dumm dumm an opening chord
and three throaty trumpeter swans join in.
Cicadas sizz-sizzle, two woodpeckers percuss
as nightingales and foxes sing right on the beat
Not one to be shy, the oldest raccoon bows to his mate
and takes to the dance floor as if he were still a cub.
Snakes hang upside down from nearby elm branches
swaying to the music, almost in trances
Shy skunks hold their oak punch and look on from afar
too timid to dance with the ones they adore.
The moose arrive late, but are soon out there prancing
their heavy-hoofed moves scaring off the muskrats
After hours and hours of dancing and fun
the band stopped their playing, and the beeswax candles were snuffed.
Goodnights and goodbyes were said all around
and even a few farewell kisses were shared
The turtles stayed there, sheltered down for the night
they’d start their slow journey by dawn’s early light.
Raccoons washed the bowls and stacked up the cups
but saw no reason not to leave the nice decorations up
At home in their dens and their nests and hollow logs
the woodland animals fell asleep remembering the dance.
Smiling and sinking into dreams of friends and good cheer
they could hardly stand to wait for the ball to come next year
Jenny Kalahar, her husband Patrick, and their pets live in Indiana where she sells used and rare books and writes novels and poetry. She is the author of a fantasy novel about teens stuck with the worst-ever magical power, This Peculiar Magic. Her two novels about fostering cats are Shelve Under C: A Tale of Used Books and Cats, and The Find of a Lifetime. Her collection of nostalgic and humorous poetry is One Mile North of Normal and Other Poems. For more, visit her blog.
More from Jenny: