The rats are not doing well, and I want them to do worse. Ten days rain: Harold’s bin of chicken grain across the road tight in its tin can, the duck grain & goose grain gone & tucked under the house, unattainable. None of the neighbors chucking kitchen-scraps out the windows anymore, no fruit in the trees, no nuts. Leaflessness, no grass seed, no dead deer, just deluge: water off the hills, rivulets on the slightest slope; meadows recall their lakes. Wet nights for the rats, wet nights.
I want them to shrivel, stumble, starve. Prolific in the attic, I want them desperate for the peanut butter on the ten traps I set—traps that smell of old death—let them smell that death but be hungry, hasty, and let each trap snap & snap well—slice a neck, crack a skull, flip & sink them into insulation, stinking in dead rat silence.
Because I hate their entry, which I can’t find, I have caulked & filled, found each hole larger than a dime, stuffed coarse steel wool, cut screen, nailed it in, gone up the extension ladder & down, reshingled, soffited, and still they get in.
Because I hate their acrobatics, clawing across the rafters, gnawing the soft joists smooth, rolling their goddamn acorns across the false ceiling or squealing as they’re screwing, I see every one of their beady eyes from our bed.
Because I hate the smell of their sweet piss in the attic—unmistakable—on summer days it rises through the vents, rides the breeze.
Because I have tried poison, which they take, seek water, sway across the fields toward the creek, speared by an owl, now the owl’s poisoned, so I poison no more.
Because they are huge. Because they are healthy—the one who flipped down from the attic last week, dead from the trap, his coat shining, lamp-black & gray, lovely.
From Night of Pure Breathing, Hanging Loose Press (Brooklyn), 2011
Gerald Fleming is the author of The Choreographer (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2013), Night of Pure Breathing (Hanging Loose Press, 2011), and Swimmer Climbing onto Shore (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2005). He lives in California.