House of Rats

by S. K. Kelen

They're up there, all right,
in the roof playing scrabble, listening to
scratchy old Fats Waller records.
They started out a gang of desperadoes
escaped from a laboratory,
arrived via a garbage truck
up overhanging tree branches
elbowed their way in & soon
the colony is an empire of rats
who eat the insulation batts
chew wires, through the ceiling
to ransack the kitchen
take bites out of everything
& carry off furniture. I can hear them
scurrying with bits & pieces, hammering & sawing:
they're building houses - a model rat town - with
imitation garages to park stolen toy cars in.
After munching down another box of double strength poison
the rats are back at work with a vengeance, thump
around the rafters insulating the house with rat shit.
Or hard at love writhing, squealing like sick starlings
or kicked puppies. The weaker explode
and TV screens fill with rats' blood but there's
more where they came from. Teeming over
mountains, down valleys, jamming highways, falling
off bridges to scurry ashore up storm water drains.
Exterminators arrive dressed as astronauts and poison
the house for ten thousand years. It's time to move out.
But the rats have laid eggs in your pockets, stow
away, follow you from house to house.
The curse enters its exponential phase.
Tentacles unwind from the ceiling, dirty great moths
and leopard slugs take over your happy home.
Soon you are a trellis. That's just what the rats say.
I'm down here listening to radio messages,
oiling automatic weapons, building rockets.
Living in a rat's belly.




S. K. Kelen's picture

ABOUT THE POET ~
S. K. Kelen is a widely published Australian poet. His most recent books are Goddess of Mercy (Brandl & Schlesinger, 2002), and Earthly Delights (Pandanus Press, 2006)


Last updated July 19, 2011