Every night, you sleep on my neck.
Contentment seeps through our chakras.
Your serene breaths and dreams of banana chips
and walnut pieces and slow pats on the head,
in that flat little plateau
of rat-thoughts between
your albinism-pink ears,
sweet Muridae, Rattus norvegicus,
Your hand touches my lip when you want water,
touches my chin when you have to eliminate.
You brux and boggle in one aural realm, while throwing your voice,
like layers in a Bulgarian women’s choir, only within one rodent.
Brux: that sublime sound of teeth grinding and peeps of joy,
until the crescendo—the eye-popping boggle, big or wee,
that signals it gets no better than this—than you . . . with me.
I whisper into your one good ear, “I love you, Willie . . .”
When we fall asleep your tiny hand is on my finger,
and as I fade to that world of no cares,
the last things I am conscious of
are the feel of your four fingers clutching the joint of my thumb,
your sparse, curled rex whisker upon my clavicle,
and a limp after-thought of a tail across my shoulder
. . . and your breathing, blowing tufts of infra-red energy into me
as I fall to dreaming with you, Willie, old man,
rat friend of almost four years, imagining we won.
When we wake, I take
your smooshy small long body
like a one-shoulder fur stole,
moist from my sweat, off my neck
and we begin, again.
My guy and I rescued your gregarious cage-mate Quadi,
black-and-white hooded, four spots on his roly-poly belly
shy, scrawny, behind-the-scenes you, you and
who would steal a second or two of preens
before petted top-dog Quadi, high on bliss
would miff-sneeze—pissed rat thing).
I’d lie down with you rats and know peace.
When Quadi passed away,
oh, how you keened—
(in this sonic zone,
an otherworldly mewl)
in unison, we let go.
I took you out of a cage
that you clearly now felt was inhabited by a ghost,
and took you to bed with me,
(and my pain, pills, energy drinks and poetry books)
with my bad dreams of Mom’s cancer;
plus, my beau’s shock incarceration;
and, when released: immotility—
ending our fertility.
Now, a year later, your feet do not work
(research says it’s hind-leg degeneration)
so that when I put you on the floor for exercise,
you “swim”—but still get to impressive speeds
on the hardwood, using only your arms—
I refuse to call them forelegs, front legs, or any legs;
they don’t look like legs, to me when you are holding
a cashew, corn kernel, or my thumb.
You tire easily,
like young me,
with my illness, chronic pain.
D-mannose cranberry concentrate
and lots of water
cured your kidney troubles,
but bad luck—
an hormonal adolescent buck
ripped open your gut.
You were rushed to surgery.
The vet respected you,
at my 99-year-old grandmother’s
To protect your $400 sutures,
I plunked you into a snug
Willie, you bore that flak-sock
like one hungry for cake
for Ramadan or Lent, or Atkins).
You knew this was necessary to heal,
until the moment it was not—
you let me know:
red eyes fixed on my blue,
you wriggled free
and that was that.
I awake to kisses from your small pink tongue,
they aren’t sloppy wet kisses
like loving, exuberant dog,
they are neat kisses, on the dry side,
and, in the lexicon of kisses
The rat-fancier foster-family in Comox
called you Willie the Himi.
Himi stands for Himilayan: milk-chocolate points
at the base of your tail and on your nose,
that have become more caramel with age
your fur texture—short, soft feathery
surrounds your snow-white head,
as your round eyes, red pupils visible,
rimmed in ballet-slipper pink
blink and slowly shut in relaxation and ecstasy.
I wake to your kisses, bruxes, boggles,
and whole-body quivering and chirps.
An intact male, frequent climax
is a hallmark of yours, Willie—
no other intact male ratties (I’ve known many . . .)
have ever offered-up such a . . . gift
despite much whole-body-quivering.
Your collapsible spine
is too collapsed
for you to groom yourself,
and I know . . . ecstasy reached—
a waxy plug
in need of plucking
from your penis
and am struck
with some ancient race memory
or vision of a future HBO show:
I carefully place the evidence
of your decrepit virility
into a woven grass pouch
slung across my bare buxom breasts
—a potent talisman to ensure
the fertility of all wo/men
who come in the night
to employ me—
with preserved spunk of
over-the-moon white rat.
SheLa E. Nefertiti Morrison is especially grateful to Fauzia Rafique; Surrey Muse; Franci Louann; friend Joe Dynahan Thompson; JG, CS at Poetry Wars; JW-Meow; Alan G.; Gomathy; artist/friend Kathy A. for encouraging her out of a long spell of loss/shock, into artistic community; for “Museum” Christopher’s genius/help; to neighbour-extraordinaire Sue McCutcheon for gourmet meals, pet-love, and more. She lives in New Westminster, B.C.