Rat Song

By Margaret Atwood b. 1939 Margaret Atwood
When you hear me singing
you get the rifle down
and the flashlight, aiming for my brain,   
but you always miss

and when you set out the poison   
I piss on it
to warn the others.

You think: That one’s too clever,   
she’s dangerous, because
I don’t stick around to be slaughtered   
and you think I’m ugly too
despite my fur and pretty teeth   
and my six nipples and snake tail.   
All I want is love, you stupid   
humanist. See if you can.

Right, I’m a parasite, I live off your   
leavings, gristle and rancid fat,   
I take without asking
and make nests in your cupboards   
out of your suits and underwear.   
You’d do the same if you could,

if you could afford to share   
my crystal hatreds.
It’s your throat I want, my mate   
trapped in your throat.
Though you try to drown him   
with your greasy person voice,
he is hiding / between your syllables   
I can hear him singing.

Margaret Atwood, “Rat Song” from Selected Poems 1965-1975. Copyright © 1974, 1976 by Margaret Atwood. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Source: Poetry (February 1974).


This poem originally appeared in the February 1974 issue of Poetry magazine

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February 1974
 Margaret  Atwood


Regarded as one of Canada’s finest living writers, Margaret Atwood is a poet, novelist, story writer, essayist, and environmental activist. Her books have received critical acclaim in the United States, Europe, and her native Canada, and she has received numerous literary awards, including the Booker Prize, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Governor General’s Award, twice. Atwood’s critical popularity is matched by her . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Pets


Poetic Terms Free Verse, Dramatic Monologue, Persona

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