by Jim Carruth

This was the nickname for him that stuck
though the rat survived barely a few months
after he trapped it in a sack at the harvest,
keeping it halfstarved in a cage on a shelf

where it could watch him slowly eat his meals
of caught, shot or cheap cuts, sucking goodness
out of the marrow of an old hock for hours.
He boasted that he fed it only when it cried out

the way the school girls had done in the village,
when he spooked them with his stare, his odd ways,
his warnings on how he’d make them whistle his tune;
how virginity was a milk tooth overdue for pulling.

Sharptongued women now they’re quick to point out
the rat was likely the only companion he ever had
those nights together, both gnawing at thrown scraps
the loneliness of a long Winter gnawing on them.