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       The Lab Rat's Dirge

She visits us all.

(Always there is a needle.)

I heard Her coming, O sweet neighbors,
by your cries and your gasps,
by the opening and the closing
of the cages.
The taste of my life chokes me:
Grainy pellets and
stale water one day before
the black rubber turns green.
It is the taste of your straining
last breaths,
O sweet neighbor.
What will save me
if I won't follow you?

(Sometimes there is a sleepy white coat.)

Better than drowning or a broken neck:
There is but one prick beneath your ribs
deeper than your heart.
Don't kick, O sweet neighbor,
or you will bleed.

(and one worn gardening glove)

Regardless, you will gasp.

(in a baggy floral summer dress)

Afterwards, there are glazed eyes,
a bent form slumped against the bars,
an open mouth and emptied bowels.
Better than drowning;
Better than a broken neck.
Can you smell me, O sweet neighbor?
The brown green soggy smell
of death?
It comes so fast.

(The reaper comes)

Don't kick, O sweet neighbor,
or you will bleed.

The Reaper comes
in a baggy floral summer dress
and one worn gardening glove.
Sometimes there is a sleepy white coat;
Always there is a needle.

--Z.T. Dec 14, 1998