The Three Mice: A Halloween Tale

The first mouse built its house out of cheese
that he stole brick by cellophane-wrapped brick
from an hotel breakfast buffet, and cemented together
with butter, but the cat – that black-hearted crapper
in backyards, and stalker of the mildewed rosehip hill –
ate his way through, pausing frequently
to sick up cheese as he went, and the mouse ran
to join his more sensible friend.

The second mouse made an igloo out of soap
borrowed sliver by sliver from mean bathrooms,
licking them until they foamed, then sticking
the fat white leaves together, but the cat –
that black-souled and far from paddy-pawed
despoiler of Rottonopolis, smote the soap igloo
and felled it with a single blow, and so
the two mice ran to their wiser friend.

The third mouse had made its house
out of hairballs, all stitched together with
whiskers plucked from the cheeks of roadkill kittens –
and the cat’s gorge rose, its hackles fankled,
its tail puffed, and a small quantity of gas
was emitted from its perfectly clean bumhole.
Then a gust of perfidious wind blew
the hairball house away, and the three mice watched

as it rolled down the deserted midnight street.

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About Bill Herbert

Poet and pseudo-scholar W.N. Herbert was born in Dundee in 1961, educated there and at Oxford, where he completed his DPhil thesis on Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid, and now lives and works in Newcastle. He is Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at Newcastle University, and his books are published by, among others, northern publisher Bloodaxe Books. He is also the Dundee Makar, or city laureate.
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