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Of Men and Mice
by Roger Caldwell
The mouse made my life a misery.
At times of concentration, silence
its silly squeak and sudden scuttering feet
drove me to distraction. In the end
its sallies on the bread-bin brought a war to death.
I laid the trap. In time a small shrill cry
out from the kitchen meant my war was won.
I all but pitied it, the thin leg crushed,
the bright pathetic eye, its narrow-breasted frame
writhing, futile, in a tiny patch of blood.
A hammer was superfluous - I didn’t know
how fragile is a mouse’s skull. I might
have cracked it, nonchalant, between two fingers.
It was the victim of itself, had too much dared
superior forces, and I flung it out,
a nuisance ended, with the day’s last scrag-ends.
But is any corpse a corpse too many?
How hard’s a human skull? The local news
told me of a plane whose door, unfastened,
loosened, fell through the bright sky of June,
targeting the cranium of a boy at play.
A marvel! Doctors of that hard tow-head
found nothing worse than bruising. In a week
he was off and squandering a wet July.
That’s luck for you. Instead, my mouse,
by a moment’s indiscretion, met his end.
Is there something in the universe
that foredoomed the mouse and saved the boy?
- I’d not choose to doubt it, only fear one day
that, if not missile from the sky, then still
from out of the blue, the leap will come
of a supercat with sudden claws, and lured
by something of more interest than a lump of cheese,
I but the accident of play. Or else maybe,
unknowing subject of a long-held plan, I’ll fall
into a trap laid out for me alone,
lie supine after cry of pain, will find myself
some squeaking nuisance on another’s ground
and, helpless, await the giant hand outstretched
to extinguish me between two hairy digits.
© ROGER CALDWELL 2003