Sauce for the Goose
I. Three blind mice
The farmer’s wife is cruelty at rest
in calico, in reddened hands and brawn
that stem from wringing rooster necks at dawn
before they crow. She serves invited guests
with crumbled sage and dressing, second best
china for the preacher. In the lawn,
three sleeping mice lie still and dream of drawn
butter on the grains of grasses pressed
into the dirt; of tails still twitching warm;
of noses that would stay content with weeds
and never long for bread to feed their wives;
of ears that could detect the hens’ alarm;
of eyes that have more use than poppy seeds
in farmhouse kitchens filled with carving knives.
II. There was a crooked man
The house is crooked, and the siding gaps
enough to welcome in a mouse or vole
who hopes to find more shelter than a hole
in sod can offer it. The owner naps.
His cat curls like a furry sleeping-cap
around his head. But rodents on patrol
are not as silent as they think. Parole
is brief, then they find prison in the snap
of jaws. He calls her thirst for blood a vice,
disgusting him, if she makes the mistake
of asking him, with purrs, to share her meat.
So she learns secrecy; she kills the mice
with one quick bite before the man can take
them from her mouth and never let her eat.
III. Old Mother Hubbard
The mutt’s tail thumps against the parlor floor
but cannot stir his mistress from her chair.
She waits, as if some djinn will enter there
and grant three wishes. Both grow gaunt, and sore
from pressure on the bones that long before
were cushioned by their flesh. The shelves are bare.
This is no place for mice to feast; nowhere
for kin to step in unannounced and pour
their joys in friendly ears. The hall is grey
with dust and shells of some dead spider’s lunch,
without the track of butcher’s blood to brand
his passage, with a beef roast or filet
beneath his arm. The dog now dreams the crunch
of brittle bones that form his warden’s hand.