Bonnie Blader

R. M.

You shouldn't know at the outset
his name; it would spoil
the surprise.

You should feel as I did
trapped in the train
that never is free of the stink
of urine
and frightening encounters

seated next to a woman
with a fear of closed
spaces distinctly stated.

The car didn't budge
nor open its door
when the guy just across
set down his sack
in order to whisper.

"Oh shit,"
said the woman fanning herself
with a pamphlet
announcing the end of the world
and nude dancing a business man's special
given out by a man
with a space in his teeth.

The pillow case rustled--
and now I can tell--

it was rat man riding
the Path with us
to the lower west side with his favorite pets
two of them tangled
in personal effects.

He cooed to the air
and buried his arm to the shoulder
fished in his sack
and brought up a rat brown nondescript
pure city rat
that he fed a small nub of corn
he held in his teeth.

"And I hate rats," she said
clenching and fanning
herself with the promise
of breasts and disaster.

The rat man nuzzled
his catch it squirmed
in his hands and its tail
coiled flailed. He whispered
again, then drove his arm
through the bag held
between shoes that flapped
like old friends with a penchant
for gabbing.

Like the shoes the rats
came in pairs and the second one
floated up
at first loose on his hand
but then settled.

Another kernel
appeared the rat reached
with its lips and ate
like a diligent child. He spoke
to his rats held them close
to each other to give then a chance
to ask about us
sitting slack-jawed.

The train lurched in the colon.
Light shone on the proud
rat man's face and gave him
a saint's air of virtue and
definite ly
benevolent ly the back lights streamed
as we picked up speed love

the floor rocks wheels squeal
at their cradles on curves love
to all rats in a dangerous

Copyright 1996, Bonnie Blader

Bonnie Blader has never escaped from New Jersey, though she has lived in eight
different towns in the state. She teaches at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School in
Princeton Junction. She is working on an MFA at Goddard College in Vermont. Her
poetry has previously appeared in 100 Words, the International Writing
Program Journal of the University of Iowa.