Friday, September 27, 2013

The Kitchen Mouse


The Kitchen Mouse



You're in my dreams like mice in a kitchen
when the cooking's over, the cook
is sleeping, the stove is cold.
You make a skitter under the fire-crackle,
shadow warm,
at a noise
gone.

I hear you eat through sacks
and wrappings, small brighteyes;
working your delicate bones
behind blue-painted plates,
alive in the crumbs, stark
on the stones, always
hungry.

Everything's spoiled in the morning
where your dirty feet have
danced, but there's no poison
here, no baited iron jaw. Live
and let live, I say, for
in my kitchen I will have
no death.


~September 2013






posted for     real toads
Challenge: It's All About Place
The ever-sharp eye of the multi-talented Margaret Bednar saw some inspirational potential in a series of  exquisite historical miniature room exhibits at the Art Institute of Chicago, and  kindly brought back pictures for us(see link.) She has asked us to write about the kind of place they might be.


Process Note: No actual kitchens were infested in the research for this poem.


Photo by Margaret Bednar,  used with permission.
(To suit my theme, I have cropped and manipulated her original photo for the header here, so blame me not her for that.)

25 comments:

  1. Oh, I will happily take credit for the altered photo It has a lot more ambiance and mood). Dances with mice.... well, fat mice in this lucky kitchen - but do they have to traverse behind the blue painted plates? My kids used to love the Disney movie "Ratatouille" but I could barely watch it once - they mice movement was SO real. I probably have to get it out for my 5 year old soon. (yuck). I WAS able to get through this read without shuddering...

    But upon second read (I almost always read yours twice) this really isn't about a mouse as you say ... "Your in my dreams like a mouse..." So, the memory isn't exactly wanted...

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    1. Yes, exactly. Thanks for this prompt, Margaret--and for sharing your trip to one of my favorite places in the world.

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  2. Kitchens, for me are a kind of prison (as ever I start my comment on an upbeat note:)
    filled with torturous appliances and the like, the slavery of diet, nutrition etc. (ok, so no lightness just yet:). So I search in the abstract world in order to diffuse these delusive impressions and here I find much relief and sometimes some common ground too. but tonight some comfort in the diorama and the miniature drama. I bet you run a tight kitchen that is always warm and smelling of blueberry muffin . . . lol, don't break my new delusion hedge, it's healing me already!

    there is enough melancholy and snippets or crumbs of shadow to make it palatable, enough for me to swallow . . . a humane trap for a rat

    such as myself.



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    1. lol my comment is like a math lesson . . . a fraction too many sums :)

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    2. But still greater than the sum of its parts. Your delusions are always safe with me, Arron--and I do try to keep my kitchen warm and consistent, like a heartbeat.

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  3. intriguing that even though it spoils what you have you are still willing to let it live....that is kitchen to me...you dont just let anyone into the kitchen, so there is an intimacy there...as if you willing to let them into those dreams no matter what...intriguing joy...

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  4. I once found a headless mouse in my hallway. I'm sure my cat Herman the hunter caught it, brought it in through the pet door alive, and it ran down the hall to where my fat cat Ava beheaded it.
    Since then, nothing that is written about mice can give me the horrors.
    Besides, this is such a kindly write, and I love the last two lines.
    K

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  5. You brought that tiny mouse so vividly to life, with all its hunger and vulnerability. Then to end the poem the way you did, I loved it. With age, especially, I feel that way.

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  6. I really love this poem for so many reasons. The literal idea of a mouse in a deserted English kitchen put me in mind of some favourite novel settings: Wuthering Heights and it's sentient purpose reminds me of Beatrix Potter's bad mice. The fact that you suggest something more metaphoric gives an added level to your possible meanings. The final line is an excellent insight into the mind of the author.

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  7. I really like this poem a lot, Joy. There is a wonderful conflation of dream and practicality--as the mouse does so exactly what mice do, and the yet, of course, it is in the kitchen of the dream where the cook may be asleep but is an active observer/listener. There is the element of the mouse eating at the dreamer, not part of the fire-crackle, but slipping in there--

    I especially like the phrase shadow-warm as it kind of describes the whole poem--something so real feeling but expressly part of the subconscious. And it also is just a vivid description of what's left in the dark after the fire's out in the grate or burner. The mouse chewing sounds and skitter--and the wonderful end--the open-heartedness, resignation of the dreamer--there is no killing the past in any event. I do have one quibble about the poem, which I only mention because it will likely make you laugh. Too much punctuation perhaps? The semi-colon after bright eyes--by putting it there, you make the "bright eyes" like a pet name, which is kind of charming, and may be exactly what you are going for--and it is cool. But I kept wanting to read it as the bright eyes working the delicate bones, and I really liked that idea, because there is something very apt about thinking of the bright eyes of the mouse as mechanisms to keep the jaws going, and also something almost skeletal about it all. (The semi-colon kept me from reading that way, and I sort of stumbled a couple of times. On the other hand, that kind of stumbling may be good as it makes one get the sense of the bright eyes as a name, or description better. Just a thought.)

    I am on an iPad which I love but is very irritating for commenting on blogger as it won't let me look at the poem without previewing the comment and putting it on edit again--it won't let me retake the thread in other words, but I had a few other points--the iron jaws a great contrast to the little working jaws of the dream mouse--oh yes---I love the blue-painted plates which are like so many plates in old houses, but here the blue felt metaphoric - and I love some of the sound things you do--spoiled/poison. Anyway, a thoroughly satisfying poem, i thought. I am embarrassed to say that I dream little but my kitchens have been infested more than once. k.

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    1. ps - sorry to be so incoherent at moments. Surrounded by devices that are all great, but not so good for the near-blind and poor of memory. k.

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    2. Laughing at your request for less punctuation! I honestly thought this poem had more punctuation in it than two of my usual ones. ;_) I actually *did* mean 'small brighteyes' as a pet name, something to suggest the attachment of the narrator to what would normally be a creepy nuisance--and bit of a visual, too--it took me a moment to get what you are suggesting, and I like it--never say you don't think like a poet, k. ---will cogitate on whether I want to change that.
      I hate not being able to easily go back and read a poem as I comment--that's why I don't use the pop-up or separate form on this blog--every time you go back up to reread, it minimizes the comment box. So while I don't operate any i-thingies, I do sympathize, and regret that it makes things so challenging. I really appreciate the effort you make to leave such detailed comments, and they mean a lot to me.. Thanks for reading so thoroughly, and I'm so glad you liked it--I also have had mouse infestations in the real world, and they are terribly nasty and dismal things--and so is killing the poor mice. I hate that.

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    3. I'm not truly proposing the change as without the punctuation, I'm not sure the pet name would be as clear. So all just thoughts. I used to use have a heart traps which were fairly comic. Maybe actually worth a poem as the whole situation at that time was quite colorful. K.

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    4. Sounds promising--look forward to hearing all about it, k--thanks again, and hope your weekend is restful for a change.

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  8. oooh, joy, i can relate to this, at least as i read it. definitely.
    also, glad to know no mice were harmed and no kitchens infested in the creation of this poem. :)

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  9. "alive in the crumbs, stark
    on the stones, always
    hungry."

    That just rolls off the tongue! Gorgeous!

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  10. I am "alive in the crumbs" damn kids left me dishes again!
    Oops...
    I love your poem and how we can see so many aspects of this dance in your words!
    Well Done

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  11. my favorite lines are............ but there's no poison
    here, no baited iron jaw. Live
    and let live.......any journey will be great if we keep these words in heart.....

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  12. "in my kitchen I will have no death" That phrase stands out for me. I love how you have taken the activity of mice and made it poetic beauty. There are times I feel like a mouse, nibbling on thoughts, words and wishes.

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  13. I like your poem more than the pictures. I imagine the lady of the household in the pictures screaming "EEK!" and whacking away with a wheat straw broom. But with your poem I feel I've gotten to know this mouse a little bit. Love the whole second verse especially.

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  14. Ooo...this is rich...I love the perspective as is but then the other layers within it as a metaphor...intriguing! I love the details you brought in this, Hedge and the way you went from dark to warm with your images. :)

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  15. No death in the kitchen seems a very good mantra! I absolutely love this one, Hedge! Of course, I love anything that mentions my mousey cousins!

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  16. Very Humanitarian of you...I prefer The Trap!

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  17. inviting hearth, HW, for all visitors. ~ M

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'Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance' ~Carl Sandburg