Of a Mouse, To a Mouse

Painting of a Mouse, by Shibata Zeshin

The clean pink two back feet he has
have long toes almost like a bird’s.
Unlike a bird’s, the tail,
a draggled earthworm, limps
behind his search.

Head joined on distinctly
to a face
but not a neck to speak of. See
his oildot eyes like little fleas
and yes, they’re shiny! really!

Shining eyes! and quivering nose!
Words from nursery shelves
run pristine by. His snout’s
in every clot of earth
and out again as quickly.

Here’s my boot withal (he sniffs it).
Massive. Quite unusual! He looks
right up, head back, at me.
Two long front teeth
and wrinkled brow

make him look somewhat goofy.
When I was a lass, and at my Beethoven,
I’d curse the places – there seemed
many of them – where “L. Van”
had put bar-long chords

and tied them over. Jammed brakes and
rats! you had to sit there counting
just when everything was humming.
More than once I felt,
or sensed, or something

two enormous boots,
level with my brow, which on the piano-lid
stood there colossal. Not B’s marbled frown
but blackened boots
for my discomfiture.

What should small creatures make
of giant ones? The forest’s quiet
and so am I. The pines stand stiff
and windless: herring-bony branches,
tracery of snow.

I wait to hear the sounds he makes.
The tumble of dry bits of leaf
on bits of twig is it, is all. They’re over.
So. How fast he skits into the brake.
Well, there you go.


Image credit: Shibata Zeshin, Mouse” (19th century), lacquer on paper. (© The Trustees of the British Museum/Art Resource, NY)


The Learned Pig


Vishvantara lives in a Buddhist women’s residential community, works as a piano teacher and has called herself a poet since 1993 though she generally writes little and publishes less (through laziness, mostly). She has finally amassed enough poems to form a small pamphlet to be published in September 2015 by Happenstance. In the noughties she won first prize in the Poetry London competition and has twice been commended in the National. She would like to acknowledge gratitude to her poetry teachers: those on her first Arvon course in 1993 and subsequently Pascale Petit and Mimi Khalvati.