I have good memories of Reading Museum, near where I spent part of my growing up years: an endlessly fascinating place! Some of the exhibits did however make me sad; and that sadness returns to me now, sometimes, when for whatever reason the world seems bleak. More than ever, human beings need to take better care of each other and of their environment.
The Mouse’s Revenge
Aeons ago (when I was seven
In an age innocent of screens), I pressed my button
Nose against the warm museum window,
Looking out on perspectives prehistoric
To see a lumbering monochrome dinosaur
Heave its wrinkly bulk across a sandpaper plain
At the drop of a magician’s hat.
And then I pulled a lever and cardboard lava
(Sometimes) spewed from the marvellous vermilion volcano:
Cold fire and molten rocks that fell no hotter
Than the dim-bulb sun supposed to light the scene.
I followed dogged families on creaking floors
To mourn the blank-eyed taxidermy bears
And tattered family trees
Of branching monkeys and Neanderthals,
Of mud-churning mammoths and heart-broken hominids;
The tigers sans their sabre-teeth or claws,
The lizards in formaldehyde,
The dusty bones at rest on hessian. And one
Tiny extinct mouse with delicate tail and paws.
A week ago (when I turned forty-seven
In an age innocent of silence), I touched a key
And opened windows on an incandescent screen,
Looking out on perspectives futuristic
To see designer infants perfectly conceived
From frozen bank and sterile glass
At the drop of a genetic code.
And then I pressed more buttons and white-hot lasers lanced
Blazing polychrome across the whizzing page,
And faxes squealed and spewed their unrelenting messages
Through sabre-toothed, cruel circuits,
And satellites beamed and bounced cold brightness
On gibbering telescreens in every jellied corner.
I followed dogma-driven technocrats on waves of sound and light
To marvel at the intricacies of surf and net,
While processors crunched numbers and broke bones,
And printers churned data and broke hearts—until
With a whisk of wired tail, with one quick electronic click,
My plastic mouse
Had silenced all.
© Lizzie Ballagher