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Rat Song

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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: Selected Poems (1976)

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

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Rat Song

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