The Paris Mouse

hunched over the greasy
burner on the stove
was noir, as in

film noir, as in
cauchemar,
as in le nuit

not blanche but
noir, the dream you can’t
wake up from, meaning she

was a mouse fatale,
licking the old oil
glued to the old

cooktop, feasting
in her tiny hunched-up
sewer life

on fats & proteins for her
bébés all atremble in their
rotting poubel nest,

so when I screamed my piercing
Anglo-Imperial scream of
horror & betrayal—

not my stove, not my traces of
pot au feu
she leaped, balletic, over

the sink, the fridge, the lave-vaiselle,
& back to the cave & the trash she
scuttled, grim as a witch

in La Fontaine
who has to learn
the lesson we

all must learn:
Reality is always sterner
than pleasures of the nighttime burner.

“The Paris Mouse” by Sandra Gilbert. Originally published in Poetry magazine in May 2006. Used by permission by Sandra Gilbert.
Source: Poetry Magazine (Poetry Foundation, 2006)
More Poems by Sandra M. Gilbert