Author: Ian Bell, Endings, Nature, Spirituality, Survival

yesterday I drowned a rat, or rather
failed to rescue it from the rain barrel,
when that is the singular thing it needed.

had it been a mouse, say, or a shrew, a vole,
or a seriously misdirected mole, any rodent
cousin with anxious paws like a little

brown widow who’d lost her handbag, fine,
then I’d not have hesitated to offer it a twig;
but not a damned big rat, there I draw the line.

In school Biology we’d opened one with a
scalpel and I’d looked among the damp
glistening coils for some part of it to blame

for the Great Plagues, for the pestering of flesh
from corpses in Wars, the scaly tail looking
like the pickpocket implement of someone

who rigs races, sells stolen cars, takes good
watches off drunks in bars; then puzzled
all night about which part of me harbored

such callousness. Had places been reversed,
my thin-toed feet scrambling useless on a
course of sinking leaves, would any rat have
cared to look in me, for an organ of remorse?

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