The Poetry of
Jack Scott

I, Rat

We have condemned a million fleets,
skippered, to the dark,
and chartered sailors to the shark.

Ships sink but once

We own the earth and keep it ours
relinquishing our lesser powers
to cockroaches and Kudzu Vine,
syphilis and ignorance,
flies, and pigs, and ticks, and men,
Lonicera japonica,
and fleas.

we are everywhere;
by night,
everywhere at once.
We cast our shadows longest
when the light is least.

Taut as terror,
fast as fear,
powerful as pain,
potential as the Plague we ply,
persistent as the day you’ll die,
actual as public toilet seats,
omnivorous as night,
we dominate by appetite.

we govern fractions.
We will eat anything.
We are Seven Legion.

There need be only seven sharks
to fill the seven seas
. . . or one
to limit swimmers in that wilderness
somewhere near their knees.

Darkness is the largest continent;
death, the deepest sea.

All ships sail from day to day,
by night, from light to light.
The ones we jump
just sail away.

Every ship will sink some day.

Rat patrols the longest shoreline in eternity.
We will endure as long as darkness,
and manure.
(Their anthem, to the tune of Onward, Christian Soldiers,
is to be sung in darkness by all rats at once wherever they are.):

Onward, Rattus rattus, marching into war
We are Seven Legion, as always before:
Death the Royal Master, leads against the foe;
forward into battle, see our numbers grow.
Onward Rattus rattus, marching into war,
We are Seven Legion, as always before.

Like a mighty army, taking on all odds,
Brothers, we are gnawing on the bones of gods;
We are not divided, all one body, we,
one in tooth and stomach, one misanthropy.
Onward Rattus rattus, marching into war.
We are Seven Legion, as always before.

Crowns and thrones will perish, kingdoms fall and wane,
but we are sure as war, equally profane;
gates of hell can never close upon our tail;
We are Mankind’s nightmare, we can never fail.
Onward Rattus rattus, marching into war.
We are Seven Legion, as always before.
Onward, then, ye Rodents, toast our Brotherhood.
Blend with ours your hunger, drink with us their blood.
Glory, laud, and honor unto Rattus bring,
thus through countless ages, men and angels sting.
Onward Rattus rattus, marching into war.
We are Seven Legion, as always before.
(i, rat,
would travel to a lighter land,
now, and not be missed,
would lemming to the nearest ship,
exchange my immortality,
for any berth deserted by my kind,
for any passage
to any firmer ground
to be beneath my feet,
evermore surrounding me.

a panic like the midnight fear of rats we trade on
to escape this riddled land
before it leaks and sinks
beneath the shark-persistent sea.)

L-4 ®Copyright 1974 Jack Scott. All rights reserved.