The boy knows something of death:
if you put thumb and forefinger around a beetle,
if you squeeze until the crunch –
maybe God does that.
Behind the green couch in the boy’s house
a half-squashed mouse clacks
its wooden trap against the molding.
Last night the mouse ate a square of yellow cheese.
If the boy lifts the wire snapped down by a spring,
the back of the mouse will still be crushed
and its front claws scrabbling.
Sometimes the boy’s father gets mad.
He gets so mad.
You think I’m telling about a real little boy.
Really there was a girl whose mother was so scary,
she can’t even write about it,
so she makes up this story about a boy –
how the boy hides the mouse under extra pajamas,
how he leaves the drawer a little bit open
like breath holes in a box
until the smell stops.
On the day of the boy’s seventh birthday
he lifts out the trap.
Tiny leg bones spill into the drawer.
The patchy back of the mouse’s neck
feels soft on the boy’s cheek.
First appeared in Off the Coast and is included in her most recent poetry collection “How I Became an Historian.”
Penelope Scambly Schott has published a novel, five chapbooks, and ten full-length poetry books. Her verse biography "A is for Anne: Mistress Hutchinson Disturbs the Commonwealth" was awarded the Oregon Book Award for Poetry in 2008. She grades papers, hikes, paints, and spoils her family.