On groundhogs, leach fields and curses

Recently, Mary Lee Hahn shared a link to a delightful old blog post of hers that featured paint chips and poetic curses (here). I was intrigued and tucked away the idea to play with later.

And then today happened.

Today was actually a continuation of events that happened earlier this week. It all began when, in search of blackberries, I wandered over our leach field (for those who don’t know, that’s a critical component of a septic system). And I noticed that the ground felt uneven (for those who don’t know, the ground should be flat and even). Looking around, I discovered random piles of sand on top of the grass (for those who don’t know, sand is a component of a leach field and is NOT supposed to be above the ground). This was not a small amount of sand. This could NOT be good.

Um, Kurt, I said, a few minutes later to my husband, pointing out the intermittently spaced 8-9 inch circumference sand volcanos, What’s going on here?

Then we looked at each other, the gears shifting and aligning. We remembered the groundhogs we’d had to get rid of a couple of years ago for suspicious activity in the area. Remembered the cute groundhog that had visited us a couple of times recently. The one we thought had been living under the barn. We also remembered the missing broccoli and leaf lettuce in the garden. The fact that groundhogs love to burrow. It took a while, but the light went on.

Kurt appraised the situation and strategically set a trap. We decided to wait and see what happened for a couple of days and then call in the experts.

Then today, I heard a suspicious watery noise emanating from the basement. Upon investigation I discovered a pipe emitting a steady waterfall which had formed a lazy river along our creepy dirt basement floor.

Uh oh.

I went outside to find Kurt and brought him down to the basement.

Where does that pipe go? I asked him, pointing to the leaking pipe.

Cue the ominous music and the duh Duh DUHhhhhhh!!!!! followed by a long pause.

The septic system, Kurt replied.

The septic system? I asked.

The septic system.

Another long pause.

Are you positive?

Yes.

Clearly this discovery pushed things up to the next response level. I dove into our files searching for our septic service company’s phone number and found the receipt for our last date of service.

Oops.

Another discovery for the day…we had maybe kind of sort of forgotten in the midst of Covid and life in general to get the tank pumped out in a timely manner. We were more than overdue.

So which came first, the groundhog or the overfilled system?

After a frantic afternoon of googling, facebook requests for help, phone calls and explanations(Piles of what on your leach field?), a welcome dose of good luck and a hefty bill, we now have no leaking pipe, an emptied and functioning system and instructions for how to deal with the groundhogs.

Yes, unfortunately, we were right. Groundhogs are burrowing into our leach field. Luckily, it seems like most of today’s issues stemmed from the overdue cleaning, but we still have to deal with the groundhogs or we could have much more significant issues arise.

All this is the background to why I found myself considering curse poems again today.

I reread Mary Lee’s poem and copied her list of synonyms for curse. Then I googled “curse poems” and found this poem by J.M. Synge, which he apparently wrote to the sister of an enemy:

The Curse

Lord, confound this surly sister,
Blight her brow with blotch and blister,
Cramp her larynx, lung, and liver,
In her guts a galling give her.

Isn’t that fantastic to read aloud?

Finally, this evening, with the events of the day and those poetic inspirations in mind, I settled in to vent my spleen by writing a curse poem. It’s been a long day and it’s still a drafty poem, but I feel a little bit better.

A Curse on the Invading Groundhog

Rise ye gods and cast a spell
upon this creature spawned from hell
Jinx his scurvy rodent hide
taunt him with groundhogicide

Bedeck his coat with mange and pox
Bung up his ev’ry tunnel with rocks
Behex his stolen greens to rot 
spoil his food and give him nought

Blast him with pustuling blisters
cramp his innards into twisters
plague him with wounds rank and septic
make his every hour dyspeptic

Roust him from his stealthy burrow
drive him over field and furrow 
Raise his fever by degrees
’til he yields the field and flees

©Molly Hogan, draft

Here’s hoping the groundhog responds to this curse. Truly, it’s better than the alternatives.

Margaret Simon has this week’s Poetry Friday Round up at her blog, Reflections on the Teche. Be sure to stop by and see what’s on offer and wish her a Happy Birthday!