When The Sun Stops Shining

A piece of shiny metal drew the rat
Outside its zone of safety into range.
Confronted by a monster with a taste
For biting children, and infecting them
With rabies, plague—and not to mention fear,
I didn’t hesitate and swung my bat.
That was my job, to kill incoming threats,
Confront our enemies. To my surprise,
As I objectively appraised my kill,
Noting that I had not spattered blood,
I was arrested just a moment later,
Advised of rights and then accused of murder.
Who murders rats? A rat is baited, trapped,
And drowned. A rat is targeted and shot.
But cops said “No, first tell them who you are.”
What rat can understand a common language?
What rat can read a book or write its name?
They pushed my head below the squad car’s roof,
Began a siren (warning off my friends?)
And drove me, not to Precinct 74,
But through a tunnel to a void of gray.
Then pulled outside, I watched the squad car leave,
Then turned to find myself amid a crowd
Standing in clots around abandoned desks
Upon whose dusty surfaces lay files
Spread wide so everyone could see their contents.
I saw my name and photograph in one
And stood beside the desk to wait for someone.
But someone didn’t come by nightfall’s black.
No one came in by morning’s foggy gray,
Or by the afternoon, or by the night.
I’d used the toilet in an open booth
A dozen times and still nobody came.
Someone did provide us bottled water.
A thousand empty, crinkled bottles lay
In heaps across the vast and crowded space.
As darkness crushed the dismal day once more
The mass of us began to circulate,
Reach out to shake a hand, congratulate.
We knew by now we were selected men,
And that we’d never see our light again.

Arthur Mortensen of Brooklyn has appeared in many journals and has three collections: A Disciple After the Fact, a novel in verse (Kaba Press); Life in the Theater, sequel, and Why Hamlet Waited So Long (San Sebastian Press). Upcoming is After the Crash, currently in submission. He has been editor & publisher of Somers Rocks Press, Pivot Press, and is Webmaster of www.expansivepoetryonline.com.