Live-trapping the Mice
by Judith Harway

The first we caught, a tiny tousled wildling, shook
like reeds in wind. The second, a good loser,
looked confused but rose to sniff my hand.
And every day another: breathing wrecks and
sleepers, stout and lean, each small, smoke-velvet
pelt and dark gaze individual. Which is your point,
of course: that life is strong. My plan was poison,
but my reach again depends on you, your memory
of mousetraps not quite killing, forcing you
to look death in the face and welcome it.

And so, to each this time, you offer choice: to come in
or not, to cast their lot with one among the infinite
possibilities, to cross the line, or is there one
between us? As we lie asleep, the moment
of decision plays out in the moonlit pantry,
star-like feet and whiskers reaching, drawing back,
a dance so personal we dare not watch.
Perhaps they see how darkness floods the trap
the way ideas enter the mind, a rush,
and who can capture them? Each time we catch

a mouse its heart's wings beat so hard
I hear my own and know the body has a shadow
capable of doing what we don't; the soul
is somewhere, even in the accidental art
of this composition, changing constantly with tiny moves
that turn house-mouse to field- or forest-mouse,
the familiar to the feral, that turn each scrap
to sculptural detail. You scatter crumbs
and free them in the brush as if death is not here
walking on silent feet among the living.

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