RAT RUN | Cassandra Voices

They turned up at the door dressed all in black,
from their baseball caps and bomber jackets down
to their DM boots, and they hustled in like hitmen
or bouncers, or bailiffs, or the Old Bill
or some kind of security syndicate,
shifting on their feet, in uniform,
black-gloved hands bearing black briefcases.
One of them did the talking, one was silent.

I told them of the massacred bananas,
savaged in their skins on the kitchen table,
and how I’d thought it was the live-in landlord
tripping home from a spree whose bitter end
involved the bananas taking an awful beating.
But seeing the state the place was in next day,
he’d thought the same of me. That’s when we knew
there were some hungry monsters in the kitchen.

So, casing the joint, the men inhabit the kitchen
and fall to all fours, closing on the kill.
The dishwasher gets dragged out, and it’s like
lifting the stone on a woodlouse colony.
The wall had been unfolded from the floor
like a turned page; and the cave’s mouth revealed
the shredded remains of the wall, the copper pipes
and a burial mound of apple cores and nutshells.

So then I told them of the landlord’s apples
taken from the bowl and, one by one,
carted up the corridor and left
like the scene of a lynching or line-up execution
after the firing squad had done its work:
the butchered fruit, at two-foot intervals,
arranged like a sacrificial offering
in a ghoulish symmetry of rotting heads.

And I told them of the unfathomable noise,
that thumping from behind the walls at night
like a house party got out of control
somewhere down the road, or maybe next door,
or in the next room. When you went to look
no one was there. All you found were the scraps
churned up from the dustbin and flung to the floor
as the scratch of claws retreated across the roof.

Back in Calcutta, Ajit would impale them
on a spear, standing over the manhole
killing rats like shooting fish in a barrel.
One time, from behind my bedroom door,
a writhing hairy thing the size of a hen
appeared on the end of a prong, under my nose,
as I drank my rum; and I jumped out of my skin
as Ajit took off laughing down the hall.

Here in the kitchen, the men recall the foxes
they’d stalked this morning halfway to the heavens
in the open air at the pinnacle
of the latest mile-high plate-glass monolith
rising out of the rubble at London Bridge,
reaching an impossible perspective
seventy storeys upwards, in the grey
and swirling skies directly under the flightpath.

They’d been living on the sixty-seventh floor
of Europe’s tallest tower as it went up,
surviving on the builders’ scraps, said the quiet one.
It’s dark when we clock on. If you miss your step
no one would catch you; no one would know you’d gone.
The city was a circuit board, its grid
lit up with diodes in the night, then dawn
was spread like a map in pink and grey beneath you.

And to hear him tell it, me and the landlord
hang off a cliff, transplanted by vertigo
down to the streets below, looking out through the eyes
of animals on the sprawl that, at first light,
the foxes contemplated from the sky:
rabbit warren, anthill, molehill, rat run…
You could step out into the atmosphere, he said
with a faraway look, go strolling down the river.

Timur Moon works as a psychotherapist at hospitals and clinics in London. Formerly a journalist, he worked as a reporter and correspondent based in the UK, South Asia and the Persian Gulf. He is currently working on a collection of short stories and continues to write poems. 


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