Year of the Rat

by Gregg Shapiro

Seven year itch. Seven year ache. Seven years
of bad luck if you break a mirror. By seven
a.m. I am awake for four or five hours most
days. Calculating catastrophes escalating instead
of counting what believers call blessings. Seven
years in a home sweet home in a rapidly improving
neighborhood. We knock on wood to illustrate
our gratitude, bad politics aside. Survivors of

hurricanes and pandemics, we can’t predict
how we will navigate this infestation. Writing
a second poem on a subject I never dreamed
provides temporary relief. But good grief, what
do these rodents want that they can’t find outside
from atop their palm tree perches, in the bountiful
recycling and trash bins that line the block?
So parched they nibble through dishwasher hoses,

perform acrobatic dives in plumbing, for the sake
of a drip or drop. Velvet paws as quiet as cats,
most glide past sticky glue trays. Would they bite
off a limb if caught? The night we heard the loud
snap of a trap under the kitchen sink, the mixed
dread and reprieve we felt led to the most respectful
disposal. As the months pile up like vermin corpses,
the thought of this dragging on for a year longer

than a rat’s tale is unimaginable. The plumbers shake
their weary sweaty heads, wring their oily hands
as they snake pipes for clues and leaks. The pest
removal experts brag about racoon, python, iguana
and crocodile captures, but they can’t seem to get
this situation under control. Vowing to defend
our property, surrender is not an option, even as
the year of the rat coincides with the year of the ox.

© 2023 Gregg Shapiro  All rights reserved.

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