TO SMELL A RAT




Sometimes poems have no other function than to tell a story. This one is a true story from a time we lived in a house on the edge of the village where mice, snakes and rats would find a way into the cellar and up the stairs. I was advised to rub garlic cloves on the stone steps to stop the snakes climbing but it had no effect on the mice or on at least one occasion, a rat. After 20 years I can still both shudder and smile at the memory of the rat in the kitchen.



TO SMELL A RAT


I once shared my kitchen with a rat,
sniffed its musty presence, hunted
it down with a quivering nose,
scouring shelves, bleaching drains,
still the fusty stench remained.

Till the day I traced it, raised the cooker lid
and faced it, nestled in orange fluff,
hairless worm tail coiled 
round dirty dank fur, unblinking
coal eyes stared at me.

Resourceful this rat, wrapped in
insulation whilst I stood stirring sauces,
absently boiling and burning,
unaware of twitchy whiskers
awaiting return to its warm bed.

I slammed down the treacherous hob,
hand to mouth in hollywood horror.
Skin crawling, hair prickling,
heart racing, I counted the hours
we’d lived so close, rat and me.

Three hefty men heaved the
rusted metal hunk out to the street,
where we tipped it and stripped it
and bashed it with brooms till the
rat saw sense and leaped free.

It streaked straight down the hill,
chased by ancient neighbour on
doddery stick legs, broom aloft with
murderous intent, determined the
rat would not taunt another kitchen.

I watched it escape, thought it was
gone as the story lived on, true tall tale
told with mixed mirth and shame.
But the rat lingered.
It’s with me still.

It’s in my dreams where it sneaks
up the bedclothes, foul fur and
flailing tail, almost reaching
my neck with fetid teeth till
my night screams fade it away.

It’s with me on hot mornings
when bare feet welcome the 
coolness of tiles, scanning rooms
for sudden movements, the flash
of pink tail or scurried scraping of feet.

It’s with me in the half light,
cradling tea, recalling with a shiver
how that impudent rat
pattered through my house
and disturbed my peace.


© 2017 Jacqueline Claire Knight.  All rights reserved. 


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