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Wednesday, 1 August 2012


In fetid sewers below the city
the rats were mutating out of their skins.
Something had flicked a genetic switch -
and not, as an onlooker might have supposed,
the button to self-destruct.

Generations flew by
in the blink of an eye.
(The fruit fly was never so quick.)

Folks spoke of body clocks running amok
and totally out of control,
of rats on hind legs built like oaks
standing in serried rows,
of uniformed rats in tunic and trews
in crimson and lemon or turquoise hues.

Where their hair was formerly black or dun
they bristled with regimental pride.

From a casual look, you might not have seen
that the rats were now as blind as bats
with a bat-like capability
to "ping" themselves around.

From pops and pips, from pings and clicks
they'd evolved a grammar of sight.
No visual cortex had ever before
been battered by so much noise.
We could only have dreamt of the pictures they saw
had not an artist among them "seen"
and translated their world into paint.
(So different this one world, for them and for us!)
Another was doing the same to the walls -
graffiti alive and living well,
deep in the bowels of the earth.

A group in the corner was writng a play,
on a word-by-word basis inventing the forms
as symbols for now of their speech -
the lost gift of literature back in the world.

A guy like a colonel was making new tools;
two or three in a corner were planting out seeds
in beer crates containing a great range of muck.
One had a robot powered by heat
pumped straight from a coal fire in the brain.

Our experts said
that what we saw
was Nature lining up
THE NEXT BIG THING to take our place
when finally we've gone -
but that of course, was well before
the great flood drowned them all.

I am linking this to dVerse Poets' OpenLink Night #55


Claudia said...

ha...that's great..and dark.. the genetic switch..generations flying by...the fruit fly..ha..i like..and rats in tunic and trews.. the writing of the play..lost gift of literature back in the world...whew...much in this.. a fantastical write dave

jabblog said...

I like it when 'experts' have to rethink . . .

Scarlet said...

Yikes on the rats mutation but I can imagine the species being the subject of much experimentation ~ I like the idea of graffiti being alive and well, even after we are gone ~

Daydreamertoo said...

OMGoodness... this was a gripping read. I loved the expectation of 'they were going to be the next big thing'...and was not at all expecting the end close...lol You had my complete attention in the flow of it all. Imagery was so vivid. I was there.
Excellent write (with a twist in the poor rats tail)...Dave.

Brian Miller said...

def a dark and mysterious tale...who will take our place...maybe the cockroaches....the flood kept it all even ensuring that intelligent life did not once more rise to find new ways to kill itself...

Ygraine said...

How wonderfully original!
This is 'what if' at it's very best.
I love to think that a most loathed of species could one day have a chance of supremacy.
You never know, they even may make a better job of it than we ever could!
But, then, the great flood would come to thwart them...probably engineered by man, of course!!

Anonymous said...

Ooh, Dave. This a bit creepy for me --I'm kind of phobic, though living in New York and traveling in India had more than enough experience - still--

Have you heard of the Bayreuth production of (I think) Lohengrin? All done with Rats.

Crazy. A Well done poem. The end terrific.


Anonymous said...

that's quite a metaphor for how disgustingly morbidly obese some people are becoming on their entitlement checks, and then passing on the genes (yes, it's passed on, and gets worse from generation to generation) to their children. perhaps there will be a divergence in the human race if this continues.

hedgewitch said...

What a very concrete yet well-winged flight of fancy, David. I agree, rats are still not going to be tough enough to be the next big thing, but I really liked their mammalian canniness and creativity as portrayed--I'm afraid the insect life that will survive our ecological meddling may lack those qualities.

Day Dreamer said...

Entertaining write!

Victoria said...

Love this, Dave...and it underlines why I am NOT a city-lover. Great metaphorical read.

Rachna Chhabria said...

In fetid sewers below the city
the rats were mutating out of their skins.

The first line sucked me into the poem. Its a wonderful poem.

kaykuala said...

If their kind can sustain without much evolutionary change, it's frightful. Great to highlight the imminent danger, Dave!


Carl said...

Another gem. Rats freak me out a little, but I liked the tale.

Beachanny said...

How incredibly inventive and imaginative. Thinking forward to robots for rats...and then (perhaps) you took us back to before the "great flood" or (perhaps) forward to the "next great flood"...perhaps to regenerate the unicorns. Clever way they made the sounds and words, keeping the tradition oral. Wildly wonderful, this piece!

Maude Lynn said...

This made me shiver!

haricot said...

We human beings are tiny creatures when we see perspectively like this... And time is left for us until the flood would come.

hyperCRYPTICal said...

Very clever Dave (or perhaps my personal interpretion is of something never intended).

This genesis, this mutation of form and thought process is with us now...

Anna :o]

Mary said...

I'd say this is quite a frightening thought, Dave; though we truly do not know what will happen eons after our demise. I wonder if the dinosaurs ever dreamed..........

Dave King said...

Many thanks for saying.

Me too! I wonder why that is!

Ah, a soul after my own heart! Thanks.

Thanks for all this - especially the twist in the poor rats tail. I did like the way you put that!

Ah, well, must have level playing fields, must we not? Like your thinking!

Yes, I like this line of thought as well, butby then, of course, they wouldn't be rats. They'd be something else, so perhaps not loathesome after all!

Thanks. Yes, I have heard of it, but that's about as far as I go. Don't know anything worth knowing. Thanks for mentioning. May look it up.

Yes, indeed, an angle I didn't explore might might well have done... another time maybe! Thanks.

Much thanks. Yes, there's a lot of expert thought on your side. I gather that beetles ar one of the favourites.

Day Dreamer
Thanks. Good to know you liked it.

Take your point! And many thanks.

Thanks very much for saying so.

Thanks hank.

I must admit that real oned do me as well! Thanks for saying.

Many thanks for all the kind words here. (I saw it as forward to the next great flood - extinction.)

Mama Zen
You can always trust the rats to do that! Thanks.

We are indeed tiny in almost any comparison with Nature in the raw.

Sound familiar... I think you're there ot thereabouts. I'm quite comfortable, though, with other intetions in the reading of a poem. Many thanks.

Dave King said...

Now that IS a thought... dinosaurs dreaming, maybe having prophets warning them to change their ways - or else! Thanks for the thoughts.

Vinay Leo R. said...

A very chilling one.. but I don't quite know if the rats aren't strong.. we call our fast paced life as rat races at times.. so if we can survive a rat race, why not the rats? :)


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