Poetry — February 26, 2019 15:03 — 0 Comments

‘The Story Of A Shooter: Two Weeks In Phoenix’ & ‘The Rat Collection’

The Story Of A Shooter: Two Weeks In Phoenix  

by Jake Uitti  

May – June 2007  

2003 Honda Civic  

For deadly heat, alien cacti and the freeway.  

 

 

The flowers
of death
grow purple
mournful
melancholy  

a moon dangles
like a pendulum
as a man
falls into water  

 

 

 

 

It’s been weeks since I’ve seen you
I hear you’ve been sick
in bed, small and frail
broken as if you
lost someone, but now, I hear, you are feeling
marginally better?
there has been lots to think about
and I am
somewhere here
in Phoenix
with my 73 year old aunt who tells me stories
of Hollywood and dancing and my buried father, her
brother, over cigarettes
and as I sat at the dinner table
for some reason I couldn’t quite explain
all I could think about is wanting you beside me
in this room.  

I went to the car in the small gravel
driveway at midnight to smoke
pretending I was getting a garbage bag with old clothes to change—
the car seen city after city—
and now I am laying in the guest bed
watching basketball on t.v., stoned;
tomorrow I am to get a massage and see
the Grand Canyon
and I imagine myself lying on a table
some old yoga woman working my back
and then turning my eyes to see you walk through the front door
stomach showing
bikini top, pink and white flowers, thin yellow cloth draped around your dark waist
lily in your hair—  

but you are away like an Arizona road—
and in my dream you touch my cheek and say,
“Come out in the sun with me. It will be good for us.”  

Tonight I looked up at the confetti stars
in the blue Arizona night
as I mourned the passing of another day
one in which I saw the desert of
New Mexico bleeding into our Arizona
the one in which I heard stories of past
palm trees and how they fell for new land.  

I took a blue card from my friend’s table in Denver, CO
it was a memorial for a man named Andrew Peter
Clausen, the brother of a guy I knew a little in college
A.P.C. had died on
March 16, 2007
my friend had been invited to the funeral in Boulder before I’d arrived
inside was poetry
his family had found after
his death
there were five poems, each about 50 words
a picture of his family on the back of the card,
little smiles unknowing of what’s to come
they all somehow looked the same
the posture the teeth and lips the eyebrows, their
“Amen…”  

I didn’t tell my friend that I took the card from his table,
he hasn’t mentioned it since
and as I read it again, I realize this was the whole
point of death. 

 

 

Walking but not really going
anywhere
I wait for an angel;
there seems to
be none,   

people walk
in faded jeans and jewelry
with too much weight on their
bones  

meanwhile a sparrow
sings some song some thousands
of miles away,
singing for
anyone she wants.  

It is warm here, in AZ,
the night air holds my face like
a mother’s hand about to go
but it cannot dispel this sick
feeling.  

Young couples walk unaware
of dreams.  

don’t want to go home
there is none.  

And in the duration,
what the shit is there to do?
—someone ask me to dance…  

I take a deep breath as
I sit on the corner,
contemplating my drunkenness
if a drive home with it completed
would land me in jail… 

 

 

What is it about us
no one will ask me my name?
I can dance—try me.
The first one who does I
will fall in love with.
Oh night deserted sky
bring me joy
for I will meet the angel
there for sure.
I will work if I only
knew what to do… no,
don’t tell me
there is always a chance
you’re lying. 

 

 

 

 

I see a lonely guy sitting
on a bench smoking a cigarette
looking a lot like me:
hot, saddened,
pained stare in the bright eyes
beard over jaw.
He is alone
He gets up, walks with a limp
past groups of drunken
college students and he
keeps walking step after step
down sidewalks and past
bars and restaurants and then
I lose him in the crowd. 

 

 

 

 

I have to celebrate
somehow
like making pink lemonade
and I want to call her
and I want to kiss her again
but I’m in a bar in
Arizona and she said
it’s better to end it than
continue it
the bartender is wearing
tight black spandex
and I think about what
it might be like to screw her
as I sip it’s all
I can do 

 

 

 

 

The waitress takes away
my glass without looking at me
the people at the bar
are defeated with laughter
outside, the street races by
—how do I
ask someone to dance? 

 

 

 

 

One night
I will marry
a woman who loves
me in the
dark  

 

 

 

 

I come out of a
bar and the warm night
greets me and the eight beers
have me feeling okay, better
than before
and a bum asks me for
a dollar and I give it to
him and a girl with a
cute ass wobbles by but
I’m mute, uninvited
the bum buys a slice of
pizza with the dollar and
walks away thanking Slice Man
another girl, in tight blue jean skirt,
wearing almost nothing else
in the heat, unhooks
a speaker from a green awning,
reaching up to get it, straining her body tighter,
some other bum whistles at her
and I walk away knowing why some folks
carry guns 

 

 

 

 

Two bugs scurrying up
a tree
three people playing cards on
the sidewalk
a waitress smiling at someone else
as I walk past her door  

 

 

 

 

I’m not going to kill myself, not tonight
anyway
so, what I have to do instead is
do something very, very well  

like wait, aim  

and in the plains
where there are a few houses
a few lights
a few shops
and a lot of nothing
it is easy to be drunker than even
this 

 

 

 

 

The stare of the eyes
definitive
somewhere someone
tells someone else
about a magnificent cliff
near Phoenix
you can see the whole world,
they say.   

In the parking lot
a woman’s top blows off
and her tits show a minute as
the child in front of her
stares  

and I hear Mozart
but a passerby says Beethoven and I
realize how little we know
about it. 

 

 

 

 

Excellence—capital E—
is something to last
a good long while
and suicide is not an
option for you.
I know that
a man is at his job
if he stops someone will die
gruesomely
he doesn’t know who
so he keeps at work.
There are chains built
to break.
There are shadows and sickness
that I must illuminate
there are ideas
to disband
to touch the wing and breathe
the breeze.  

 

 

 

 

“Let’s have a drink of something,” I said to her
on the phone.
It was 10:30 AM, 1:30 PM hers.
First time we spoke in days.
It was a damn dream to be
with her
a twisted mirrored nightmare.
Tia, with her thick brown legs
round shook ass
long hair like black Boston boulevards
a mind full of right and wrong
both lucks.
“It’s too early,” she said.
Too late, too.
We were in the center of nothing
a friendship epoxyed.
Oh, how I missed the girl in Jersey
 “Let’s make love,” I said. “Or fuck,
whichever you want. I don’t mind.”
She paused over the telephone then
laughed.
“Stop it,” she said.  

 

 

 

 

I see the planes in my mind
and the men screaming
orders and firing guns  

and the man next door has
a gun under his pillow
thinking another man
dressed in black
will come through the window
and grip him very hard   

and in the morning as the sun shines
he wakes up and the gun goes off into a wall
and the man across the street
hears it and gets his own that morning  

he comes home
puts on the television
and sees what we all see
blasts and bullets and tears from a woman
and he has dinner: a bird,
mashed potatoes, green beans and butter
kisses his wife goodnight and goes to bed
the gun under his pillow
when he hears something outside
(animals crashing
into his garbage)
he picks up the gun and looks out
the window  

he cocks it, but a bomb is coming down on him
he looks up, a plane races past,
slicing sky.  

 

 

 

 

I sat on a bench alone
gazing at the giant open wound
of crag and rock
burnt orange dust red and
forever. To be away from
the people—even this
emptiness could not escape;
and we gather with cameras
overweight with our
lives and we look out
under the blue sky
to the immense structures of
torn disrupted earth and
stone; insects with long wings
horned animals, birds with
curious caws and claws. A
tiny white one with a thin
black beak flies to my
bench and sits with me –
she tells me this story. 

 

 

 

 

The people take  

breaths
photos
walks along
paths
what do most
give in
return?  

She will demand
I give
long like the river.   

Bigger than Colorado. 

 

 

 

 

“I am so fucking frustrated,” she said.
“I wish you could help.”  

Oh, why cannot we climb into a car
and drive away—  

please jump into the car with me
and fly like a good idea
as we down down down
the long highway
the one we have never yet—  

“What’s the matter?” I ask.  

the weight feels like a boulder
burdensome
and there is no hope for anyone else to come
for our safety  

hold on
it will be alright
one day there will be water in this desert
one day there will be softness in this torrential structure.  

“I got a letter,” she, the angel, said. “It wasn’t good.
I wish you could help.” 

 

 

 

 

Tonight
the light
ain’t coming easy
it is around the corner
around the corner
in the loveliest dark
I think of her
under her night alone
and I wonder
and I see her,
please
let me see her. 

 

 

 

 

Nameless doubt rises over
leaning trees
the mountain is silhouetted behind
we are on our roads
under no sun
a diamond falling, untouched.
The country is torn and torn again
sheets breathing in the wind
and I feel like dying—oh, I do.  

 

 

 

 

Big neon casino signs
hang over my eyes and I want
to gamble but not of that sort
I am on the highway driving
with no purpose
going somewhere without a woman
soon to leave this city the home of
my kind old Aunt;
listening to symphony and
the rushing of the automobiles
right through the night like teenagers
distance makes for a thoughtful day  

a lonely woman
is the only kind I ever known  

a great land
that cannot be claimed. 

 

 

 

 

Conclusions  

In a bar, basketball playoffs on the t.v., hometown Suns versus the rival San Antonio Spurs. Groups of dudes huddled at the bar staring up at the rectangular Plasma screen.   

I sit in the back of the bar, alone in a booth, sipping my beer, my car parked up the block ready to go. I grew up on the game but couldn’t defend the raucous types, shouting without consideration of where their shouts land. Worst of all, I knew the Suns would lose, they always lost to the Spurs. There was no hope anywhere.   

I finished my beer. The waitress who’d brought it was dressed in all black, a tight, sleeveless number and black pants down to black heals with plenty of straps. I’d seen her before, working in here. She knew what she was doing there in front of the mirror every morning. I wanted to dance with her tonight. Smiling dark lips and blinking big brown eyes. Hair like someone else’s future. But she wouldn’t have me. I couldn’t speak her language. She smiled at the dudes at the bar. I thought maybe I’d write her a poem but no one likes poetry anymore.   

I ordered my beer, deciding not to even look at her until she was ten steps away. Some women are better as fantasy. And this, my last night.   

On my third bottle the game reached halftime. The dudes went outside to suck down a few smokes in the warm night air. I took a $20 out of my wallet and put it on the table for the well-dressed and walked out of my booth, taking the pistol, which I’d bought from the back of a shop that morning, from under my belt. I aimed it at the first gelled nest of hair I saw. A short guy with a Polo shirt and he dropped with a splatter of blood. His friends stared. I quickly hit a redhead with freckles through the left eye, his arms shot backwards and he fell on his ass to the sidewalk. I left the bar and turned my aim down the street hitting a tall guy in jeans in the leg and then a blond one in the neck. They fell.   

I walked to my car. Before getting in I shot twice in the air so the lookers-on would stay down—One! Two! And I drove away toward California’s stage.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rat Collection  

by Jake Uitti  

July 17, 2007 – October 3, 2007  

227 23rd Ave. E
Seattle, Washington 98112 

For the small green home now demolished  

 

 

 

 

Big Mark saw it first,
“I just saw the rat!” he yelled.
I’d come in from outside
and gone into the kitchen
Big Mark showed me the trashcan
it had a hole in it where the bastard had chewed through  

then I saw it, it poked it’s dirty grey head from
under the cabinets
I picked up a knife, it saw me
and ran outside.
Jiji was out there, she didn’t speak English well, she’d moved here
from China three months before
and squeaked, “EEEEEEEEEEEE.” She picked up
a garden hoe and raised it above the rat and lowered it
but the creature ran into a hole in the side of the house.  

It came back into the kitchen
Big Mark tried to kick it; he got it in the side
the rat flew across the kitchen, hit the wall hard
and then ran into the hallway
I thought I saw his small back legs bleed  

I was right, small drops of red blood led into the bathroom
he was done-for now, he was leaving a trail.
I went into the bathroom with my knife and shut the door  

there was no way out for the rat
he was in the far corner, a tiny pool of blood collecting at his back haunches
I raised the knife and was about to throw it at the bastard
when I heard a squeak,
“No.”
I looked down and saw the rat talking.
“No, please,” he said. “I am just trying to get on;
I might look terrible to you but this is how I’ve always been:
Please, let me live.”  

The rat shuddered, whiskers quivered. He looked so harmless now
a little grey ball of hair. He was only after our trash.  

It was then Jiji came through the bathroom door with Big Mark.
She took the knife from my hand and threw it at the rat and killed him.
“Good,” she said. “Rat have disease!”
She smiled, brushed her hands and walked out. Big Mark and I looked at the creature,
a large knife through its small stomach;
blood collected on the floor silently.  

I walked out of the bathroom to my room
and didn’t clean anything up.  

 

 

 

 

A rat is in our house
I dreamed it was dead, but it’s still alive
and now we don’t know where to step
for the rat may come from any shadow and gnaw our toes off
he may be right there in the trash;
when you can’t depend on
trash you become
paranoid  

paranoia
can bite
until
you believe
it is either you or the rat
and when it
comes back  

it will either have to
run
or be killed
and then only
your trash
will be safe  

pay no attention to the
thought: I don’t want to kill the bastard—
that is the
mind betraying
you—do not be weak:
kill the rat! 

 

 

 

 

The rat came out of the cupboard
I was fixing a cheese sandwich,
“Get out of here rat!” I said, showing him the knife, mayo-blotted. “Don’t you know what will happen?”
You’re here,” he said.
“I live here!” I said.
“So do I, and you’ve killed me once and I’ve come back, so put the knife down.”
He was right with that one, I put the knife down and continued to make the cheese
sandwich, putting Swiss onto bread with honey-mustard and lettuce.
I saw the bastard eyeing my food. I don’t like him, grey vermin. It had been
raining, his coat was wet and spiked.
“Get your eyes off my food,” I said.
He laughed. “You stole that, and any receipt is proof. That food was
somewhere else when you took it, or someone like you took it,
and the cheese was from the cow, and you didn’t make or work for any of it.”
“I work in a restaurant,” I told the rat, “I make coffee. People give me
money
I use that to buy this. You must not understand the way things work.”
“You’re a thief,” he hissed.
“You’re a rat!” I shouted.
“I know,” he said. “I readily admit it.” 

 

 

 

 

Most days I sit in my room,
nights, too
when not, there is the job
and you cannot sit there
not unless you know people who know people
who know people
there is no physical struggle
like your own
and to release there is rolled smoke
and cool liquid
the elements
distilled
we work to stay afloat as everything else
melts
in the sewage where
rats are born 

 

 

 

 

My roommate says he knows the rat’s
escape point
says if he sees him again
he will know what to do,
he tells me this as we walk home down the dark street past
other people talking, carrying bags, on their way home,
I wonder what he’s planning
what will he do to the rat when he sees him
blocking the escape
what is this guy capable of, really…
I’ve seen the rat
his pointed face, small grey body
and from what little I know animals
are just trying to sustain
our rat has chewed through the house, through trash cans and plastic bags,
a rat of ingenuity, a rat of ability, not a creature of sedentary habits
I wonder how long it will take for Big Mark
to kill this rat?
living only to die, rat
like the rest of us, rat
I wonder how much better I have it
is the game just about pushing vermin away?
there must be a better method to say get out of the trash
than slitting the rat’s throat
my roommate and I get into the house, he puts on the television and I go into
my
room 

 

 

 

 

I’d seen the rat the first time
behind the refrigerator
the back door open, left so by Jiji, who
stays at home every day, fearful of going anywhere
but the Chinese grocery store and the hospital where she gets
medicine to “Correct Chemical Imbalance”
but she likes leaving the back door open for air
and so the rat has come in through there
probably from under the mossy boards that lay by the wall there in a pile
from prior tenants of this dingy, cheap green
house. I saw his rat body as he scurried out the door from behind the fridge  

I came out from a piss
and I caught a glimpse
of him
from the back
he was too quick to let me see his black eyes, his pink nose, his grey ears
I hadn’t seen much
and for some reason
perhaps out of ignorance
perhaps out of a lack of desire
I said and did nothing about him  

and now
I can hear him crawling
in the walls, chewing away  

Big Mark, now with a two-day beard and long hair,
tells me rats
are as scared of us
as we are of
them 

 

 

 

 

We have a guinea pig in our house, he is
Big Mark’s pet, his name is Wilson,
he sits all day and all night
in his green plastic igloo in his plastic cage
surrounded by wood chips
and his shit piles up in little round
pellets all over the cage floor
they look like the food pellets we feed him once a day
and when he drinks from his water bottle
it makes a rattle sound
the poor bastard is scared all the time, shivering
he nearly leaps from his skin
if you touch him with your pinky finger.
I wonder sometimes why the rat doesn’t come in here and murder Wilson at night
the poor pathetic guinea pig, Wilson—out of his misery,
maybe it’s because there is no fun in that, no sport.
the guinea pig goes on living
probably shivering whenever he hears the rat come in to sneak
from the trash, which may, in the end
be worse than death  

 

 

 

 

I make sure to keep my door
closed tight because of the rat,
locked
as if the rat could gnaw through my door
with two horrible sky scraper teeth
wanting to chew through my heart, eyes,
lungs and candle light stomach, maybe
see me there in bed at night, or
waiting for my return from work during the day,
carnage on his mind: “Rat Have Disease!”
this is the mindset I have
when I think of rats—
you? 

 

 

 

 

I went outside one night to throw away some trash
I saw a Styrofoam carton
chewed up
against the chain link fence
I put the bag of trash down
in the grass
and went to the Styrofoam container
to inspect the teeth marks,
there’d been Thai food in there
some wide noodles and steamed vegetables
stuck to the sides with oil and salt and
grease, dried up,
perfect for a rat:
the teeth gnawed easily into the Styrofoam.
the bastard, the clever creature—I picked up the Styrofoam
and looked at it and examined it and turned it over in my hand,
I went to put it in my trash bag
but I turned and realized
it was gone  

I looked around
no one there ‘cept
me 

 

 

 

 

Two people live upstairs (227 ½ 23rd Ave. E)
on the side of our house sit six or seven
cans full of stacked high garbage
all of which the rat has chewed through:
it is this abundance
that draws the rat
as if he believed in
plenty   

I walk outside in shorts and t-shirt, carrying a plastic bag
with pizza crust, coffee cups, and peach pits
I throw the trash in the brown trash bin
and leave it there
thinking nothing  

the task of this rat
to scurry about the house
through garbage and holes—we tried
to fill one with water
from our hose, stuffing the thing deep
down in there
but the next day beer cans had been
left by the back door, rat holes chewed
through each— 

 

 

 

 

I was in the bathroom pissing
when I heard the sound of something on something
I didn’t know if it was the rat
or if it was my roommate and his girlfriend, or whatever she was,
banging, banging
I went in the hall and saw a huge moth
the size of my thumb with big wings that flapped
it made a hell of a commotion  

“What the fuck? Where are all these things
coming from?”  

I thought, “Great, now I have to kill this moth.”  

I watched as he flapped, flying in useless circles
around the light bulb in the hallway,
then I saw his partner sitting on a picture frame in the hall under the light
and I thought, “I have to kill her, too,
these moths, how did they get in here? There is no use for them here, no food or
way out.”  

it was their fate to die, with me;
and so I took off my sandal
and threw it at the first flapping moth
I got him in the body and he fell twitching,
1/5 still alive.  

then his woman, who was a darker color, and smaller, started flapping around
I waited, watching her and her big wings, her boo in a crumple on the floor, dead,
she knew it was coming
hers, and she
joined him  

I went to the bathroom and got some toilet paper, picked them up
their big bodies like free pedicure slippers—they were not your normal moths,
these were meaty things.
I put them in the toilet, hoping the cheap thing wouldn’t clog on me again
and I flushed them down
when I came out of the hallway
the rat was there staring at me,
“Are you proud?” he asked.
“Not really,” I said.
“Why did you do it?”
“It had to be done, there was no other way.”
“You could have let them go.”
“No, they wouldn’t have survived, besides what would they have done?”
“Watched the light, what else?”
“They would have eaten my clothes.”
“Have you ever seen that happen?”
I’d caught a month in my gym shorts once on the floor,
but it could have been trapped in there.  

            “No,” I said. “But everyone knows it.” 

And then the rat was gone.
I walked back to my room
sat in a wood chair,
and wondered, “What’s next for me…?”   

 

 

 

 

I stayed up late one night
in the living room, drunk,
and played a Spanish acoustic that
a woman had brought to the house one night because
Big Mark was fucking her;
as I played the guitar,
the strings light and resilient
I waited for the rat to come and find me—
but he never came
maybe he was gone, I thought,
on an important date,
maybe it had all been a dream.   

Wilson chewed a food pellet, pathetically, in the corner. 

 

 

 

 

I haven’t seen the rat in two or three days,
he hasn’t been in the house in a week,
maybe he’s gotten the idea,
maybe there was something in him saying don’t overstep bounds,
you had it good before with the outside trash, don’t make them
kill, for they will kill if they see you,
and in this thought the rat would be correct  

but perhaps I cannot understand the rat so well
maybe something is brewing, something big
in the small rat brain  

there is always
the chance 

 

 

 

 

One of the girls I work with at the coffee shop
told me rats were running around the baked goods before I’d been hired.
“No one really cares about this place,” she told me,
“no more than they have to to keep their jobs,
so people were sloppy; we left out breads, muffins, croissants
and in the mornings rat holes appeared in the walls, bites taken
from the muffins,
which then had to be thrown out,
there was rat shit on the floor that I had to clean up with the dust and crumbs.
the shit was hardest to get out from the corners, it stuck,
but when we started putting the pastries in the oven at night, and shut the door,
the rats stopped coming, there were no more holes
and hardly any shit in the corners.”  

As she told me this, looking pretty in her blue dress, inviting
breasts and made-up eyes, I wondered if I should leave the oven door
open a crack to see what rats would do and how she would
react. 

 

 

 

 

The rat appeared one night
outside my window. I heard
it rustle, then I heard it speak,
“Rats,” he said, “are used
in millions
of tests,
experiments, no?”  

I stuck my head out the window, said, “I know a guy
who does research on rats in Cleveland—
rats everywhere
shocked,
heart surgery,
livers cut up,
skin sliced, graphed,
food mutated,
mascara sprayed in eyes, ears,
water contaminated with viruses,
their cages shrunk and shook
or made into mazes,
eyes blinded with lasers,
immune systems
tested, abused, destroyed
and many
are just killed outright
for fun.
My PhD friend in Cleveland performs operations
impregnating hundreds of rats
testing them with surgeries
in university
and killing them and aborting their fetuses.”  

“What a life,” the rat said. “What
do you hate about me so much? We’re
taken from, we’ve given,
why do you hate rats?”  

“Love needs hate to separate itself
from something,” I said.  

“Maybe you’ll find the answer
in one of our assholes,” he said, scurrying
away into the shrubbery of night.

 

O,
I see some women
and they are truly their own gifts  

I imagine a rat is a human woman
and another rat a human man  

they stay in my imagination
and I picture the rats
feeding their rat children
except they are human  

and all the food
and all the trash
for these children
who will one day also scavenge the earth  

in the mean time
as the infant grows into adult
underneath the house in some hole
the parents have made
(the hole we tried to flush out with that
hose)
I think of more
women
their fat
asses
sweet smiles
and how they are fooled by
every human heart  

that is the nature of
it
and some of you may
scowl  

but scamper home
to live it out  

just the same 

 

 

 

This morning I woke up
hung over
I came out of my bed in my black t-shirt and
boxers that said “I LOVE YOU”
and I headed toward the bathroom
to piss out the poison
and water
I’d drunk at a bar.  

Jiji came out of her room wearing
a tight blue Mickey Mouse t-shirt,
“LOOK!” she said, pointing to the kitchen.
 “Oh,” I said, “…. the rat?”
She nodded.
White stuffing had been strewn all around
like a pillow had been ripped apart
holes torn by rat’s tooth.
A decoration. A declaration.  

“We need poison,” Jiji said to me. “We need GET it!”  

I walked into the bathroom
and thought, “I don’t want to clean that up.”  

After a piss and more sleep, I went to the kitchen
and I looked at the fuzz on the floor. Why had the rat
ripped it up
and how did the rat get in here?   

A fly buzzed overhead
a big fly
the insects and pests are overrunning us with their
endurance  

I went back into my room
and smoked a cigarette until it
burned to the end. 

 

 

 

 

I came home one day lunch in hand
and I saw the bastard  

he saw me, too, and ran under some bushes
he was in the trash again, gnawing it away  

I heard the bushes rustle low
the thing no bigger than my hand
pink tail, black eyes
like nothing, really  

it could feel the wind change ahead of time
if it wanted with those
long whiskers  

I could hear it move, trying to sneak a path,
maybe there were more, maybe he was with companions
laying claim to us
unless we fought back—
we could be finished!  

or maybe
the rat is just the small stone
that when planted
would grow a jungle of worry
and paranoia
and bury us in our own gravely minds  

either way  

the rat wins 

 

 

 

 

I walk into the kitchen one night
and run the faucet
letting cold water collect in a plastic Pepsi bottle
and I look at the torn up shreds of the pillow still there
not cleaned up
maybe we’d left no food in the trash by mistake
broken the accord,
we’d taken away his supply, perhaps his family’s supply,
and to get back
he tore what he could find to shreds, he’d gotten in, gotten out,
the rat, leaving Wilson alive yet again, the rat,
the best spy there is, better than the midnight blue crow, or a dead moth
and when my bottle is full
I take it and go back to my room
and remember
my index finger, the one I’d burned on a stove
at work that morning in the café,
there’d been a metal pot with hot boiling water and
I’d touched it
held it, by accident,
a finger burnt
the skin swelled
to a boil, too—
and I popped it and water came out
and now it’s red and sore
some old, dead
skin, ghostly and flimsy
until the new skin comes back
somehow, I think,
all these
are related  

 

 

 

 

Today began
by waking up earlier than I wanted
hung over,
tired, cold from the rainy city air
late for work  

I got there 20 minutes behind
            driving the mad highways  

piles of dishes waited for me to jump in
the phone rang:
food orders, drink orders
more dishes, customers wanting
directions,
floors to clean, money to take (but not keep),
mopping, disinfecting bathrooms: mirrors, toilet seats, etc.
and then there were the people who don’t understand how
difficult
service is and make you do all sorts of
dumb actions
like add Splenda to their coffee
three times before it’s
right  

when you’re in the back washing something
for them
they wait impatiently at the cash register, shouting things like,
“DING DING! HELLO!?”  

and then they give you an order
and you smile back, grinding teeth, and say, “Thank you very much,”
when they give you the money that isn’t yours to keep
and people leave
but you have to stay and keep working for
them
as they take your
time  

and finally, finally
nine hours after you got there
you take a deep breath
but
there are some last minute things
to take care of—oops
so stay another 30 minutes and you stink of sweat
and grease, and your legs sore, your back aches, and you can’t stop
saying to yourself, “God damnit. God damnit.”  

and finally you can leave after mopping again
because some little girl threw up her lemonade
and you rush out so no one has time to make you linger longer  

and you get home and decide on a cold shower
because you feel like shit squished under the sole of a shoe
and as you step out of the shower a shampoo bottle falls and explodes onto the
sticky floor  

and you don’t curse, you are in fact very silent
your teeth grind again and you mop it up and
you put on your shorts and a shirt and you walk out of the bathroom
and there is the rat staring back at you,
smiling, naked like you
and somehow you think he is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen
today 

 

 

 

 

On the phone with a sweet voice woman
when I heard Jiji yell, “WE MUST GET POISON! WE HAFT GET
POISON!”
“I think there’s something going on,” I said to the babe on the phone,
a striking Indian Princess, “I’ll have to call you back.”
“Alright,” she said. She knew all about the rat, I’d her told about it before.  

I opened my door and looked outside and saw Jiji
petting the guinea pig Wilson on the green futon,
she smiled and the guinea pig didn’t move a muscle
Big Mark walked in carrying
Wilson’s plastic cage
he had a smile on his face, too.
“WE GIVE HIM NEW BED!” Jiji said. “WILSON!!!”
Big Mark put the cage down and then, manhandling Wilson swept him
up and dropped him into the new bed of woodchips in 1/3 of a second.  

The first thing the guinea pig did was run into his green igloo and hide
then he came out and shat within 15 more seconds.  

“WILSON!” Jiji screamed. “HE SHIT! OH, WILSON
NO ONE LOVE ME. BUT I LOVE WILSON! EEEEEE!”  

We watched the thing in the cage
Mark said he used to have three guinea pigs
one would beat the other two back and eat most of the food from
on top of the igloo and drink from the water whenever he wanted: The
King Guinea Pig. But then the King died and one of the others
died soon after, leaving Wilson the only survivor of the plastic cage
survival of the dimmest, I thought.  

I went back in my room, to think about
kingdom and bad luck
I called the Indian Princess, and told her what had
happened.
“You live in heaven,” she said. “I want to see it.”
            It gets heavy distance. I’d met the woman in a bar in Jersey, drunk, and we’d
            gone home that night. Her body the vision of beauty etched in my primordial
            brain. But I left her a year later, to test myself. Ending up here, with the rat.  

At midnight I went into the living room, Big Mark sat on the couch watching
the glowing television, he looked up and grinned,
the rat was in the corner, but I didn’t say shit.   

I’d finished reading from a book one day
when a moth came up
from hell, some portal underneath my desk
and it bumped my leg and flew behind my book case and
bounced around the white wall
when he found the overhead lamp he went for it
it was a big moth, I’d seen two of his fat friends
before, the couple I’d killed.
My window and door were not open
where were these hellish bastards coming from?
It had to be Hades,
the damn ugly thing
landed on the lampshade, I saw his little black
silhouette on the wall shiver
I shook the lamp but the moth stuck to the shade
I found a sandal and moved it around in there, but the moth stayed in there
simply avoiding it.  

I shook the lamp again from the base
rattling it
and finally the moth rose out like a small explosion
but I had been staring at the lamp for too long that my eyes were blinded
there was a blankness in the middle of my
vision
where the brightness had been
the moth flew
he bobbed and weaved like a fox out of my sight
he found a spot where he blended in
on the rug, in the closet, somewhere
invisible to me
and so, beaten, I went back to my desk and sat down.  

It was too late to do anything; I just wanted to sleep now, no more reading.
I wondered if the thing would climb in my open mouth while I slept
and poop and fly away laughing
I thought about putting a sock in there but I didn’t.
I wondered, “If I leave the door open will the rat come in and eat the moth? But is that
nature and nurture?”
I waited for the
shattering blindness
to go away. 

 

 

 

It was morning and I’d been up for an hour, maybe two
I sat in my room
eating food, nasty, melty, thoughtless food
made in the withering microwave
when I saw the moth from the night before
flying
my vision restored
he stuck to the dresser
then he started to fly up and up
toward the ceiling
but the desk fan whirring on high on the sofa pushed him around
he landed on my bed sheets
I took off my sandal and tried to push him away
but he wouldn’t go
maybe he wanted fresh death, maybe it was a suicidal moth
I tried to push him away with the sandal but he was clever
hid in the folds of the sheet
finally, when he was ready, he flew up toward the drywall
ceiling
I clapped him and he dropped, crumbled,
to the floor.
I went to my desk and
finished the food and
I used the
paper towel I’d used to make it
to pick up the insect
I put him in a trash bag that would later go outside to the trashcans.
I finished the last swallow and I saw the moth’s small paper-thin
body in that plastic bag, I wondered if he was alive,
one final moth breath.
I waited. For Anything.
For the phone to ring, for Jiji to yell that I had to GET POISON
for the rat to come out with his teeth in the shadows of the afternoon
for the moth to rise again
a fresh phoenix
but when none of that occurred
I wrote something down and forgot it. 

 

 

 

 

I had just gotten off the phone with the Indian Princess
when I saw Jiji, who said, not realizing I’d been home, “YOU BACK?”
“Yeah…”
“EHHHHEEEEE. I HAVE BITE. LOOK!”
She showed me a small red dot on her wrist, the work of a flea
or mosquito.
“It’s a bug bite,” I said.
“A BUUUUUG bite,” she said, trying to imitate my American. “YOU HAVE?”
She 
began looking up and down my legs and wrists for similar bites,
then pulled one of her spandex pant legs up and showed me
where her knee had been bitten, too.
“It’s just a bug bite,” I said. “I’ve had lots.”
“YOU HAVE?”
“Yes, it’s just a bug bite.”
“IN CHINA WE DON’T HAVE!” she looked up at me.
“If it gets really red—try not to scratch it—if it gets red we’ll do something about it
but you’re fine for now.”
“ARE YOU SURE?” she asked.   

Earlier that day I’d been on the phone with a t.v. company
trying to get the big screen t.v. fixed that she bought and now wanted to sell to pay the rent, she got it for $300 and wanted to sell for $600, but the tv company
didn’t want to send someone here for it,
the company wanted her to send it there. They used words like “refurbished model”
“customer service” and “assumed risk.”  

“WILSON!” Jiji screamed, forgetting about the bite for a moment. “WILSON!” She went over to the guinea pig. “EAT FRU-IT FROM THE FRIG-O-RAT.”
She sat down on the futon sucking at some cherries in front of Wilson, dangling one in front of his face. Wilson twitched his nose from inside his igloo.
“EEEE,” she yelled. “WILSON! EEEEEEE.” And another
cherry went down the
                                                hatch.   

I went into my room
maybe she won’t be fine.   

As I closed my door, I heard her ask, “You like SINAT?”
“Who?”
“FRANK SINAT! RAT PACK!” she giggled.
I closed the door. 

 

 

 

I went to say hello to Jiji one night because I thought she was lonesome in her room
and I was lonesome too
and I knocked on her door
she yelled, “YES COME IN!”
she was sitting on her bed with a black laptop watching a
Frank Sinatra film,
she began singing out of pitch, “STRANGERS IN ZEE NIGHT,”
she started to giggle. “You know ZEES?” she asked.
“Yeah.”
“Frank SINAT!” she said.
“Sinatra,” I said.
“Frank SinatREH,” she said.
“Yes,” I said.
“Oh, thank you!” she said. “So good! Good boy!”
I sat down and watched. A few minutes later I said,
“Good night, Jiji.”
I walked out of her room
looking for something, but nothing was there,
I didn’t know what I wanted either. I thought maybe I should ask about the
New Year, The Year Of The Rat.
“GOOD NIGHT!” she yelled again behind the shut door. “HEHEHE.” 

 

 

 

 

“I believe everySING people tell me,” Jiji said one night.
“People think you’re nice, but then they just want to have sex with you, is that it?” I said from the bathroom.
“NO!”
I came out from my piss.
“LET ME SHOW YOU SOMESING!” she yelled. She went to the kitchen
got some grapes and started sucking on them over Wilson’s cage, but Wilson didn’t come out. “EEEEEE!” she yelled. “WILSON!”
“Feed him the protein,” Big Mark said from his doorway. “He needs meat.”
Jiji got the container of Wilson’s food pellets and looked at it, confused. “Zees is
meat?”
“No, it’s protein,” he said.
“WUUHHHT?”
Jiji poured the pellets on the plastic igloo where Wilson slept
then she dangled a half grape over the door of the igloo to get him out.
“He needs to eat,” Big Mark said. “They look better when they’re FAT.”
“FAT RAT, FAT RAT,” Jiji sang at the docile dumb creature. “FAT RAT, FAT
RAT!” she liked it.
“Man,” Big Mark said to me, “when I came home last night, I heard the rat around the
house. I thought he had gone. But he’s back.”
I was happy to hear he was still around.
Big Mark said, “I heard him go VEEEEEEERRRRREEEEEEEEIIIEEE! It was by my window.”
“TOMORROW WE BUY POISON?” Jiji yelled, pouring more pellets for the guinea
pig with her hand, and dropping some grapes down to him too,
Wilson came out and began eating.
“Yeah,” he said.
“FAT RAT, FAT RAT, FAT RAT!”
Mark turned the page of a magazine, perusing glossy pictures of runway models
dressed in thongs. “Man, if you’re a really hot woman you got it made,” he
said. “You can do anything.”
“You like ZEES ONE?” Jiji asked, pointing to a white girl in blue underwear over his shoulder. “CAL-VIN KLE-INE!”
I went inside my room, I heard her sucking on a new grape by Big Mark’s ear.
The phone rang. Mark picked it up. “Hello? Hello?” he said. “Yeah,
tomorrow.”
I left my door open to listen. “WHO WAS DAT!” Jiji asked. “Your GIRLFRIEND?”
“No. A girl.”
“YOU LIKE HER?”
“Yes, Jiji.”
Big Mark went into his room and closed the door. I watched Jiji
suck another grape just for Wilson. 

 

 

One day at the coffee shop
a guy in all-black asked me how I was doing,
I never have much to say to that, so I told him,
“Fine.”
“What have you been up to?” he asked.
I have nothing much to say when people ask me that either, so I told him,
“I’ve been reading, writing.” But I don’t want him to ask me what I’ve been
writing.
“Nothing wrong with that,” he said.
I agreed.
“What about?” he asked finally.
“We have this rat in our house,” I said,
my roommates are going to kill it.”
“I lived in a house once,” he replied, “where we had a mouse problem.
So we bought these traps, they were supposed to be these human things”—he meant humane—“where the mouse goes in and gets caught in this trap, and my
roommate was going to release them into the wild… the thing was though we forgot
about them so they sort of starved to death. We found ten mouse corpses in three traps, one of them had tried to eat another’s leg. He got it half way down.”
“My God,” I said.
“Whenever I think of that, I get the image of a sinking ship,” he said. He was a
songwriter. Work lasted a while longer. More dishes, food to serve people.
I mostly tried not to think.  

After work I went to a bar. There was a woman serving
beer. I got two, and there were more women behind me
some laughing, I saw them all in the mirror hanging over the wine glasses.
At one point one motioned for me to come over
to a table. I got up and went to sit down there.  

Somehow we got to talking about mice and rats.
“I used to live in this one house,” she said. “I used to sleep with this mosquito netting
that was tacked up on the wall. And one morning I woke up with these three rats
crawling all over it. I was terrified.”
I drank some beer. An orange slice swam in it.
“We had rats,” this other girl with red hair and long legs said, “that would only eat our white bread. They were some picky rats. Fucking rats. I hate them, they’re disgusting.”
“We had some nasty rats in the kitchen,” another woman said.
“I heard this horrible screeching once in my house,” I said. “And I saw two rats
running around like lovers.”
They looked at me strange. Then someone said, “One time
we had this Shaman come in, it was actually our landlord,
and she gave these spells with these crystals on strings and
crazy high-pitched crying, but that didn’t do
anything. The rats came back.”  

It was then I stood up and went to the bar, sat, and drank three more beers.  

When I got home later that night, my roommates were in the kitchen.
They were talking and opening
this green box of poison. It said “TopCat Poison Four Packages.”
“WE DO IT NOW!” Jiji said with a smile. “ALL OF IT!”
In her hand was a photograph.
“Who is that?” I asked. She showed it to me.
“IT’S ME!” she yelled. “YOUNG!”
Fish net stockings, lipstick, a guitar between her legs. “I was 17! I’m 36
NOW! WE KILL IT NOW! NOW! EEEEEEEE!” She ran over to Wilson. “WATCH
WILSON. WATCH! WE DO IT NOW!”   

He probably thought he’d be next
he ran inside the igloo. 

 

 

 

 

I woke up to someone playing the guitar one morning
I woke up to sunshine and blue sky
I woke up to someone yelling, “JACO! YOU WANT BUY FEESH!”
I woke up to a phone call after that and to the voice of the Indian Princess.
And then mid-way through the conversation, Big Mark yelled, “THE RAT ATE ALL
THE POISON! WE’RE GOING TO GET MORE! JUST IN CASE!”  

When I left my room later to look around the house
they were gone
there was a small trey of green rat poison pellets near the trash can, emptied
and then I went outside into the day
and there was an empty trey tipped into the rat holes on the side of the house near
the trash cans, only a few pellets left.
I figured the rats, if there were more than one, would be dead
their stomachs exploded
in those holes underneath our house.  

I went to sit in my room
a few hours later they came home
Jiji knocked on my door and yelled,
“HELP! HELP! JACO! YOU HELP ME!”
more talking to more people for her
about the big screen t.v. not yet sold
Big Mark put on the radio, a loud Death Metal station, and cracked tallboy beers on
his day-
off
the disc jockeys tell us to come to Happy Hour somewhere else   

the rat is gone, we believe,
that is all there is now, to be sure,
that and the big screen in a box, useless
in the corner,
broken.  

I go out to the holes on the side of the house
and I think I can hear the faint cry of baby rats in there
not yet dead
then it is gone
silence just before Jiji
yells again for
HELP 

 

 

 

I am walking home in the dark one night
and I pass by someone with a hat hiding his eyes
I get nervous but nod, he nods
I turn the corner and get to my steps
the light is off
and I know Jiji has locked both doors
I take out my lighter and flick it on, nervous
I see the rat there, “What
the fuck happened to you?” I ask. “You look awful.”
“I’m dead,” he says. “I ate that nice food you left out for me,
here I was thinking I was going to have a good day—the sun out—
a day when I didn’t have to scavenge, one day I could stay at home,
I fed that shit to my family, you know—bastards.”
“It wasn’t me,” I said.
“I just wanted a day of peace. Some rest.”
He was right.
“Our corpses are in a heap under your house, and the holes we dug to try to escape
are filled with water, I had to work like mad digging up to escape your hose.” “That wasn’t me either,” I said.
The lighter flame danced.
He showed his ghost-white building teeth. But I wasn’t scared anymore, he was  dead. “I hope the smell of our bodies comes through the floors,” he growled.
“I am sorry,” I said. “I wish I wasn’t part of a race where
poison tastes so good. It’s everywhere. I know how you feel. It’s done slower with
us, you know, we’re more used to it. In a way, you’re luckier than I am. You’ve had a freer life than I. You’ve been living yours since you were
born.”
“You could have helped me,” he said.
“I’m trying,” I said. “Listen, I got to go inside, I really have to piss.”
I walked up the steps and took out the keys and looked for the right one.
The lighter blew out, I tried to light it again but it wouldn’t spark. I thought I heard something behind me.
When I got inside, Jiji was swatting at a fly on the couch and I could hear Big Mark
fucking a girl in his room, sock on the knob. I knew her scream, Naomi.
I got a beer from the fridge, rolled a joint
and went outside in the backyard. I hoped the rat’s ghost wouldn’t
find me there; I thought of home, my Indian Princess, so far away,
I thought of my mother, too, and her black cat
as a yellow spider in the bush
made a new web.  

 

 

 

 

rats everywhere
in every corner of the world
even at sea—they know it
first—planes, too, the
rockets turning around the sun:  

“JIJI!” Big Mark yells, “WE NEED GET MORE POISON.” He talks like her now.
“I SAW RATS. I HEARD TALKING AT WINDOW. NEW RATS!”  

“WWUUUHAAAAA?” Jiji yells. “MORE?! FAT RAT! FAT RAT!”  

“RATS, JIJI,” he says, “I SAW THEM UNDER MY WINDOW
NEXT TO BUSHES. BLACK ONES.
THEY WENT UNDER STEPS.  

“WE NEED PUT POISON
IN STEPS?”  

“YES!”  

“OKAY. I GET. FROM STORE!” 

To keep going
we must find new places to go. 

 

 

 

 

Out of the smoke from my joint
one early morning
came a ghost
that looked like my father:
in the swirls of the
blue and grey
I could see him
standing there
near my bed
an old, large man
with a broken grey smile
he’d just recalled
he had
and the music plays
over the radio
and the lines fall from
my mind
through the ether
again
in a solemn sorrow sentence
and he said nothing, smiling
while the rats somewhere nibbled
trash cans of the world
while the fearful women
cried for stronger men
to be stronger
to poison
while I smoke another
joint
with no name
I blow a grey breath
into the smoke circling around the
ghost of my father
and he disappears again and again
like a street
I am left here at the beginning
an open window swallowing
it all 

 

 

 

 

When there are no more
rats
we’ll be happy, we think  

but I think we
will turn to some other form
to shower
with disdain  

and that is the burden;  

our mind has holes
and the things of the world
find themselves miserably inside
them trapped
and quickly killed  

Big Mark is in San Diego tonight,
a vacation,
Jiji is sitting on her floor doing yoga
broke as ever
the t.v. dusty and horizontal in the box in the corner
destinationless   

the drapes are drawn
as I type away
dead rats motionless under our house 

 

 

 

 

But
the rat came back
I saw him, his grey body,
long, thick red tail
nothing, really
just a moment
running along the edge of the house
he stared at me with two fleeting black
eyes and said, before entering the bushes,
“I heard Wilson died.” He grinned teeth,
“Dumb motherfucker!”  

the rat laughed,
he was correct.
Wilson’s heart had stopped
a week ago
while I watched a baseball game on tv.
Big Mark
tossed his stiff, wheat hair
body in the trash.   

I can hear the rat now
in the walls, running, playing as if in our minds—
we can’t rid ourselves— 

 

 

 

 

in October
from a shelter
we adopted a kitten
we could raise
a more formidable
challenge
a beautiful calico
with a pink nose
and tiny fangs 

Bio:

Jake Uitti is a founding editor of The Monarch Review.

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What am I?

Bioluminescent eye
That sees by the shine
Of its own light. Lies

Blind me. I am the seventh human sense
And my stepchild,
Consequence;

Scientists can't find me.

Januswise I make us men;
Glamour
Was my image then—

Remind me:

The awful fall up off all fours
From the forest
To the hours…

Tick, Tock: Divine me.

-- Richard Kenney