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Wednesday 24 October 2012

The Gospel According to a Rat...

...who, by chance, had been there,
snuggled deep beneath a pile of straw
and minding his own business
in the byre at Bethlehem, 
the time it all kicked off. He saw
it all in black and white -- well,
dark and light, to be exact --
which we have never done.

We gasp and lightly talk of awe
at Bethlehem's romantic pinks,
its royal blues and rustic light,
while all the while it is our vision
blocks the beauty from our eyes.

The rat had great advantage over us:
vision blurry. 20/700. Less,
as he got older -- well, in fact
he was quite elderly, and wise enough
not to believe his eyes.

Consequently. Rattus was rewarded
with a panoramic blueprint -- rodent-friendly schema --
chart of smells and their locations in the byre.
Nose-tickling smells, exotic smells and baby
lactose -- not to mention body sweat and dust
aromas. Stink of twenty different kinds of flesh.

The way a bat or dolphin limns its world
with echoes that come back from clicks and whistles
in the dark, rat did the same with pongs and reeks and perfumes 
by the score. Old smells and new smells, plus a thousand
put-your-nose-down-on-the-floor smells;
odours which have never bothered our olfaction, whiffs
and bouquets undetectable to our equipment, scents we never
have -- or could -- experience, for which we do not even have 
the words, at which we cannot guess, not in our wildest 
dreams -- these smells his rat brain shuffled and assembled
the way our brains must shift and sort the visual bits
of landscapes, intricacies of our human sight. Our brains --
that have not seen them -- know exactly where they go!

Later, back at base, faced with the sceptical reception of his 
peers -- and unbelievably loquacious for a rat -- he gave 
his testimony -- his Gospel as he'd smelt it at first hand.

The humans have a baby in a food container, he began --
a baby that has magic powers. A few days old and with its eyes
it shines a light up to the heavens and picks out a star!
I knew it was a light beam that I dimly saw, because
it had no smell, and I caught glimpses here and there in my
few ultra-violet cells. The baby's parents
are from priestly stock. Sorcerer and sorceress.
They're holding court to commoners and Magi
from around the world. You just would not believe your nose
if you were there! The byre has never known the like!

Beside the courtly people you'd expect to be around,
the rich, the self-important, others educated in 
the occult ways, I sensed a group of men
who stank of sheep -- no doubt in ceremonial grease
and fleeces, dressed up to the nines, so I deduced
that sheep are holy animals. I did at one point
think the baby had a smell of lamb and wondered --
could it be half human and half sheep...? but then
a flight of eagles, stunning bright with bodies
far more human-like than bird-form... and again
I wondered... could they be... 
a half-and-half creation? They sang --
and from the night sky... the strains of music.
The whole thing then was magical, but no one and no beast
so much as raised their heads to look. The focus still
was on the baby in the food container -- so much so
I thought perhaps they were about to eat or sacrifice it.
Foolish that, for it was clear that it had magic powers.

I tell you, friends, this thing is big and when it kicks 
off -- as it will, and very soon -- it will go viral!
It will shock the world. Even now my whiskers tremble
at the shock waves it could bring.
This is the gist of it:
a human child is to be worshipped for itself.
Not just sacrificed or eaten out of hand -- for that
would be a sin -- exalted on the meanest 
altar you can find -- a cattle feeding trough
would seem ideal. Sheep are holy unto all.
Shepherds are a priestly caste --
more worthy of respect than human eagles in the sky.
Docile sheep and a human child are all you need
as patterns for your lives.
Cleanse the world with perfumes --
most of all, exotic ones that irritate the nose.

Become a lamb, and if not that,
a friend to lambs. Protect them from the foxes.
Warn the shepherds when their enemies are near.
Frequent those places where heavy, sweet perfumes
might vie to cling to you. Become
dependent -- as a body is --
and grow again from there.


Brian Miller said...

love the wisdom in your last stanza on becoming the lamb...fun to see as well the birth through the eyes of rattus...interesting...a baby in a food container...ha...set me back just a second...

Anonymous said...

Ha! Such a very clever idea for a poem - very original and really interesting.

I have to say that I liked the parts telling about the rat's olefaction and vision the best - his narration was also very fun and interesting but, of course, that seemed a bit more driven by your point while the first half was a little lighter there.

The whole thing is really interesting though - such great conclusions. I am thinking that you could write it as a book, but then you'd have to be a bit less thoughtful at the end! That part = the becoming of sheep - dependent - so cool, I thought, but might not fit into a more common appetite! (If going for a book scene!) k.

Mary said...

Enjoyed your wisdom and philosophy in this poem, Dave.

kaykuala said...

This is a powerful read Dave! It takes a lot to digest but worth it! Nicely!


Ash said...

This is absolutely brilliant!

Elephant's Child said...

I love the understanding that Rattus had, and how it was so different, and yet so similar to our own tale. Without question there was an insect or six whose story would be different again.
Walk a mile in the other person's shoes... (or other being in this case).

Cloudia said...

"in fact
he was quite elderly, and wise enough
not to believe his eyes."

"And if not that,
a friend of lambs"

I Enjoy your work, Dave

in fact
he was quite elderly, and wise enough
not to believe his eyes.

haricot said...

The rattus was witness of the birth by chance..."by chance" is an interesting theme as well as passing time. In fact I smelled fragrance of A lily by chance today, and it made me imagine the virgin Maria.

Dave King said...

I must admit I had qualms about the food container!

Much thanks for this. I, too, thought the the early part the more successful. And you are correct, the latter sections were more driven by my agenda. Most useful to have my thoughts confirmed, though - esp by those whose judgements I trust.

Thanks so much. Good to know.

Thank you for saying this. I was quite shocked when I looked back over it and realised how much there was! Thanks for persevering!

Thanks for the visit and the comment. I enjoyed my visit to yours - to those parts I could manage. A stylish blog.

Very kind. Thank you so much.

The Elephant's Child
interestingly, I was wondering as I wrote how I would be able to draw the parallels between Rattus's understanding and ours, but in the event I didn't have to. It panned out, as you say, very similar indeed.

Neat comment. Thanks muchly!

Interesting point you pick up. I do agree -- chance would make a fascinating theme.

A Cuban In London said...

Clever, creative and original. Oh, and humourous, too! I loved it. I could have never imagined in a million years what a rat would have made of the birth of Jesus. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Linda said...

I love this! Thanks so much for sharing, Dave.