Nearing sunset, the young echidna
performs an unusual act: it climbs
a granite boulder, then slides off,
headfirst, claws scratching rock
and lichen, impacting the ground
with its beak and with a pock!
Alarmed or just surprised, it slinks
into a crevice and rolls into a ball.
Landlocked, high in the valley,
it looks like a resplendent sea urchin—
gratuitous comparison, but one
that might clarify. The blond tips
of its brown-black spines seem
to live quasi-independently, or interact
like blocks of similar colours.
In the granite crevice, its spines
bristle and ripple with the search
for comfort, easing of anxiety.
Crouching and watching intently,
you study the echidna’s growing confidence,
its snuffling re-emergence. It waddles
straight for you. ‘Waddle’ is not a weak
word, no diminutive. Its tiny eyes
fixed on the landform you are, it approaches,
claws testing the baked mud surface,
old-materials-beak fresh as the day
it settled on form and shape,
sniffing the ground for termites.
It circles you, slowly, methodically.
The relative nature of predation
works its ambiguous orbit as you picture
the fox you glimpsed two nights ago.
This small echidna has method
and intent and a resistance
we need not call ‘defence’.
Might fox and echidna coexist?
Echidna will arise and predate
on termites when danger has passed.
You have rendered yourself outside
relevance. Processed, you dissolve.
Evidence—is it evidence?—of its presence
is everywhere. So rare to see in the open,
it has dug and overturned rocks to source
veins of termites networked through
hillsides. You track its movements
around the block via underminings
and overturnings. Heavy rocks you could
only lift with both hands and knees bent
are tossed aside: ball of muscle
not much longer than your foot,
it shifts impediments easily. Its claws
hack through concrete-hard dirt. Its tongue,
which you have not seen, is necessarily
long and sticky, reaching down
through capillaries and chambers
to the core of the earth.