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August 14, 2008

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Laura -- You're channeling my ex-mother-in-law: Each winter, she was forced to slaughter the Mongol hordes of field mice who devastated her kitchen (she, too, had a very old farmhouse). She set the traps and wept as she emptied them. And she felt the mice deserved honorable disposal. Since the ground was frozen and she couldn't dig little graves until spring, she carefully placed the little corpses in the freezer, to await thawed ground. Wanna guess how we found out about this?

Although, like Laura, I too like rats, here's a slightly different view from an English poet:

"Rats!
They fought the dogs and killed the cats,
And bit the babies in the cradles,
And ate the cheeses
out of the vats,
And licked the soup from the cook's own ladles..."

--Robert Browning

Great post and comments. Thank you all. I love the Browning lines you quote, Larry. There is a very funny poem by Kenneth Koch called "I Like Rats." It's a parody of D. H. Lawrence. Maybe I will type it out and post it.

from Eddie Vedder & Co. (aka Pearl Jam)

"Rats"

They don't eat, don't sleep
They don't feed, they don't seethe
Bare their gums when they moan and squeak
Lick the dirt off a larger one's feet
They don't push, don't crowd
Congregate until they're much too loud
Fuck to procreate till they are dead
Drink the blood of their so called best friend

They don't scurry when something bigger comes their way
Don't pack themselves together and run as one
Don't shit where they're not supposed to
Don't take what's not theirs, they don't compare

They don't scam, don't fight
Don't oppress an equals given rights
Starve the poor so they can be well fed
Line their holes with the dead ones bread

They don't scurry when something bigger comes their way
Don't pack themselves together and run as one
Don't shit where they're not supposed to
Don't take what's not theirs, they don't compare...

They don't scurry when something bigger comes their way
Don't pack themselves together and run as one
Don't shit where they're not supposed to
Don't take what's not theirs... they don't compare...
Rats...they don't compare
Rats...they don't compare

**
from the album Vs.

Great post! I had squirrel infestation (to me, they're rat cousins) once and the did so much damage to my house I imagined becoming the old lady who sits in a rocking chair on her porch with a rifle ready to shoot. Didn't Michael Jackson record a song about a rat? Ben?

Ben was from the movie sequel to "Willard," about a boy and the strange control he had over rats, who killed at his command. I have a suspicion - it just occurred to me, so sorry if it isn't fully developed yet -- that we project the traits we least like about ourselves onto rats.

Speaking of squirrels, I have memory of one getting into a classroom in the Barn at Bennington during a January residency. Everyone got slightly hysterical and scurried around the room (like rats?), screaming their heads off while the poor squirrel looked for an escape route.
Suddenly, Jason Shinder, who was teaching in a room down the hall, appeared in doorway and shouted, "Don't worry!! I'll save you -- I'm a man!!" It didn't do much for the workshop, but it was pretty funny.

I hesitate to post what may look like shameless self-promotion, but this made me think of one of my own poems -- it's about mice, not rats, but it definitely fits the theme. (Eventually I had to start snap-trapping the poor things, because it got cold enough that depositing them outside really did mean consigning them to an unpleasant death.) You can find it here:
http://www.bloodorangereview.com/v1-4/haines_snow.htm

I loved the Carruth poem -- thanks for that!

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"After You've Gone"
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of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark
                   

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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