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.