Rodent fugue

Early winter, the jubilant bush flowers, little mammals in the evening.

My hut was warm and smoky, antechinus skipped along the carpentry.
One hundred years of amateurs, the trees kept back the wind.

Creaking like a little wooden ship, I was pacing out my past.
Convict captain’s delicacy, nice cut lads!
If my hut was the ship, the rats would quickly jump.

Rats are bastards, they are so like us.
We soil our nest, we sneak along the rigging.
Carpentry and rope, England’s Medusas afloat.
Rattus rattus carrying the plague, an ocean of dread.

Crouching in the crow’s nest, it’s a long way back to England.
Captain Cook my Sisyphus, convicts merely moving stones.
Passengers slipping the purser, like sleek mice.
Myths soak through as sea mist, I’ll close the window now.
Two candles is enough to read by, ten would be nice.

Bogong moths, not one of them Icarus.
Moth meat for the moth people, few of whom remain.
My flotsam mattress, rodents scampering on my pillow.
Rodents tug my hairs in sleep, nibble trailing finger-bait.
They have shorted out the tangled twelve-volt system.

I carry water from the creek, in a plastic bucket.
My people must be dreaming, the land is drying up.
The white man’s posy florid as a musket shot.
There’s trouble with the steerage, his leaking mental boat.

Humans think and think, rodents chew, the oceanic forest waits.
The mice stay timidly on board.
Antechinus tunnel through my hull.

To see the nervous animals, sit quietly and still, remembering the past.
There are many flowers floating in the winter bush.
Silent in my little wooden hut, I close this in my book.

© Tim Metcalf
Overland 188 – spring 2007, p. 80

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