But everyone is busted a little.

No consciousness of the breaking, just the history
of a dirty footprint—even the easy stuff,
the small conversations about our worth.

(To be an anonymous object,
the innocuous heart, the smallest part of flesh.)

On Withers Avenue, a rat circled the bottom of a trashcan,
threw itself against the plastic green walls of its new world,
I heard it. I removed the top. I put the top back on.

(Small brilliant hole in the dark, let me out.)

Standing in my ridiculous human clothes,
I argued with the rat. I asked him,

Are you rabid?
Are you crazy?
Are you responsible for the plague?

He didn’t answer; he threw himself again.

Are you mean?
Did you hurt your children?
Did you hurt anyone?

I want to tell you that I let that rat out,

that kindness overwhelmed the tough pout of people-cleanliness.
I want to tell you I put him in a shoebox
and brought him to the country, fed him corn and taught him to read.

(Un-gettable parallel time, fathomless choices.)

I say to a stranger, I am harmless.
But the word doesn’t seem right. I have been harmed,
but I do not wish to do harm, but I could do harm,
(I am not without desire.)

I want to tell you the rat moved in with me, we made a good living.

But, I tell you, I let him be.
I think he might have managed to release himself,
he was not harmless. He had intent. Flirting with the world.

He’ll show up one day, long-wandered in the weather.

He just needed someone subversive to bend in
real close and say,

You can rustle all you want,
you can reinvent the shout,
but you got your rat-self in there,
now, get your cunning rat-self out.



To The Busted Among Us

Ada Limón


PREV / NEXTfrom this artist