Of Mice & Men

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