Early one sunlit summer evening,

on the patio next to the urn,

a brown rat appears, not, as usual,

scurrying in briefest light from dark place

to darker place, but stationary,

as if paralysed, right jaw bleeding, torn.

Then it staggers fitfully a step.


We wonder what to do. Take a stick,

like Philip Larkin to the rabbit

traumatised with mxyomatosis?


The neighbour’s fat tabby cat – that saunters

through our garden like a colonial –

arrives. It jousts with the dying rat,

a tenth of its size, like a stuffed toy.


Next time we look, the rat is on its back

in rigour mortis. A fly buzzes.

What had maimed it? The bourgeois cat would flinch.

Was it dropped from a height by a novice

among the suburb’s small flock of buzzards?


We postpone action till the morning, hoping

some predator would remove the corpse.

As the poet opined to the rabbit,

‘You may have thought things would come right again

If only you could keep quite still and wait.’


Next day, the rat’s still there. We bury it.




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  1. #1 by John Huddart - September 2nd, 2013 at 22:13

    Who would have thought a rat deserved anything at all? And yet its fate commands attention, as does its cause of death – the latter mysterious.

    Somehow, the rat’s fate transforms it – the urban horror of the usual cliché [isn’t there one for every human who lives in cities?] is dispelled, and it becomes an object of fascination, and there is some pity in its being left ignored by those who could hasten its inevitable end.

    Its being buried, and not binned, reveals its final transformation from a subject of distaste, disquiet and curiosity, to one where somehow a ritual disposal marks its passage to the state of fellow creature.

    So bravo to “We bury it”!

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