Plural the verdicts we cast on the creatures we have to shake hands
with—Creepy! Get Her! Good Lord, what an oddity! One to steer clear of!
Fun! Impossible! Nice but a bore! An adorable monster!—:
but those animates which we call in our arrogance dumb are
judged as a species and classed by the melodramatic division,
either Goodies or Baddies. So spiders and roaches and flies we
excommunicate as—Ugh!—all irredeemably evil,
Dreck to be stamped on or swatted, abolished without any hover:
mice, per contra, except to a few hysterical women,
rank among the most comely of all the miniature mammals
who impinge on our lives, for our smell doesn’t seem to alarm them,
visitors whom we can jump with, co-agents it doesn’t seem phony
we should endow with a You, as from now on I shall in these verses,
though my grammatical shift will be out of your ken for, alas, You
never have managed, as all successful parasites must, to
break the code of your host, wise up on what habits can travel.
Ah!, if only You had, with what patience we would have trained You
how to obtemper your greeds, recalling the way that our Nannies
molded our nursery moeurs, chiding whenever we turned our
noses up at a dish—Now remember the starving Armenians!—
and when we gobbled—Enough! Leave something for nice Mr. Manners!—
cited You suitable maxims. Good Little Mice never gnaw through
woodwork or nibble at packages. Good Little Mice never scatter
droppings that have to be swept up. Good Little Mice get a tidbit,
Bad Little Mice die young. Then, adapting an adage of lovers,
Two Little Mice are a company, Three Little Mice are a rabble.
All through the Spring and the Summer, while You were still only a
couple,fit-sides we dwelt in a peace as idyllic as only a Beatrix
Potter could paint. In September, though, this was abrupted; You must
havelittered for, lo!, quite suddenly, there were a swarm of You, messing
everything up until no cache was aloof to your insults.
What occurred now confirmed that ancient political axiom:
When Words fail to persuade, then Physical Force gives the orders.
Knowing You trusted in us and would never believe an unusual
object belonging to Men could be there for a sinister purpose,
traps were baited and one by one you were fatally humbugged:
all fourteen of You perished. To move from where we’d been sipping
cocktails and giving ear, translated out of ourselves, to
Biedermeyer Duets or Strauss in Metamorphosen
mourning the end of his world, and enter the kitchen to find there
one more broken cadaver, its black eyes beadily staring,
obumbrated a week. We had felt no talent to murder:
it was against our pluck. Why, why then? For raisons d’état. As
householders we had behaved exactly as every State does.
when there is something It wants, and a minor one gets in the way.
September 2, 1971