In Memory of Hayden Carruth

Little Citizen, Little Survivor

A brown rat has taken up residence with me.
A little brown rat with pinkish ears and lovely
Almond-shaped eyes. He and his wife live
in the woodpile by my back door, and they are
so equal I cannot tell which is which when they
poke their noses out of the crevices among
the sticks of firewood and then venture farther
in search of sunflower seeds spilled from the feeder.
I cannot tell you, dear friend, how glad I am to see them.
I haven’t seen a fox for years, or a mink, or
A fisher cat, or an eagle or a porcupine; I haven’t
Seen any of my old company in the woods
And the fields, we who used to live in such
Close affection and admiration. Well, I remember
When the coons would tap on my window, when
The ravens would speak to me from the edge of their
Little precipice. Where are they now? Everyone knows.
Gone. Scattered in this terrible dispersal. But at least
The brown rat that most people revile and fear
And castigate has brought his wife to live with me
Again. Welcome, little citizen, little survivor.
Lend me your presence, and I will lend you mine.

[Hayden Carruth, Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey. Copper Canyon 1996]

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.