A Rat’s World – Sylvia D’Souza

“We cannot kill the rat”

I said to my mother, who

Disturbed and distressed, by the

Constant interruptions and minor disappearances

Of food and what other things

Decided something must be done.

She first got a rat trap

And trapping one, released it somewhere afar off

Where it couldn’t intrude anymore

And despoil her peace of mind.

And then, it seemed there was more

Because the interruptions in her affairs did not cease

Pieces of bread were smuggled out

Just as brazenly as before.

And the rat trap came out again

But no rat in it

Maybe this one caught on to the trick

As a self-respecting modern rat in a modern world

Learning by dire example should.

My mother, now out of her wits’ end

Her shrine, the kitchen, thus invaded again

And molested daily, by a silly freak of nature

“I must get the rat”, she cried!

No, she did not wish to kill, but what choice is left, she asked

What could be done to divest of this devil?

So my mother mused, and I

Listening to her in this mood

Thought aloud, “We cannot kill this rat!”

It is a life, as life is ours

A soul it has, that breathes and moves

Surely it feels, as it hungers and thirsts

In all other bodily functions, it resembles us

What a burden on our conscience!

To snuff out this life—

Like a flame on a candle

A life dies with it, as one lives in it

No, mother, we cannot kill this rat

To which my mother, not unschooled in argument, returns

Yes, it is a life, but in the scale of evolution

What value does it have?

Everyday hundreds and thousands of us

Are killed in crashes, die hanging out of trains

Murdered brutally, die hungry or in pain

When human life is so cheap and easily sold,

What matters it, if a rat dies cold?

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