for the rat behind the fridge

In October, the first of the oak
leaves chokes out the last
of the arugula. It rains every
day. There is a dead rat
in the basement, a live
rat in the kitchen.
It jumps off the stove when
I open the door. It’s hiding
behind the fridge, longer
than your average ruler and
rulers are generally average:
they have to be. And a rat
can’t be anything other
than a rat. A rat can’t be
a ruler, especially if it’s longer
than one. But don’t google all
the diseases rats carry if one
jumps off your stove. It won’t
help you be a kinder lover
or cook better eggs. So when
it’s cold outside and warm
within, a rat, like a human,
prefers a roof and something
to eat. For all these words,
though, this yammer of
ambiguous feeling, I can’t
pretend I want to let it live.
It’s still raining. The rat is still
behind the fridge.
My metaphysics have yet
to catch up with the ways
that a rat behind a fridge makes
me want to love my family
better, fall floor-ward
and pray to the great god
of rats, anyone, anything
other than myself for a change.





Benjamin Hertwig (002)_editedBenjamin Hertwig is a ceramicist, painter, and PhD student whose writing has appeared in the New York Times, Pleiades, Sun Magazine, and Prairie Schooner, among others. He is the recipient of a National Magazine Award and received a special mention in the 2019 Pushcart Prizes. Slow War, his debut poetry collection, was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award and the Raymond Souster Award, and received the Stephan G. Stephansson Prize.