Poem by Chad Parenteau
"Monster Rat" by James Conant
I saw it while marking
my own space in the cellar,
watched it scurry under
the bed frames and cheap desks
bought by prior roommates who tried
taking in foreign students for money,
two in the same room I now lived in.
Too frightened of small teeth,
I let the cellar pile up.
It was another secret kept from
new roommates, like
the quick-to-freeze pipes,
and the former priest
whose left-behind papers
carried the scent of crayons.
The downstairs neighbor saw it,
finally called the exterminator.
By then, the cellar mimicked
the appearance of a police raid.
With nothing moved, I never knew
the final body count.
I wondered if a corpse remained
somewhere as a warning to other rats
the same way Southie’s dead seagulls
strewn about East Eighth Street
stop Beacon Street debutantes
from hunting for comparative lofts,
an eye out for Affleck and Damon.
Maybe the rat left before that,
had saved enough for a flower bed
outside the Prudential Center
where, after nights of waiting tables,
I’d see other rats lounge openly,
stare at them until they stared back
like I was another tourist.
When I finally had the cellar emptied,
all I found in that rat’s presumed corner
was a roll of twine, an expired invitation
to get together and reenact the myth
of Theseus and the Minotaur.
The rat had offered me the hero’s part
thinking I’d feel better with the string
and whatever I’d bring for a sword.