2010 Poetry Challenge

National Poetry Month

Peter Willowdown

Old Moses

Old Moses dreams of twinkle-toes
that like to scamper in the dust
and though he scarce still has the teeth
to suck a warm and milky rusk
he likes to watch the mice at play
- it puts a tingle in his nerves
and reminds him of his younger days
when he was the terror of every
little thing that moved
(a skill for which he was seldom reproved,
except by Alan the Good Samaritan,
who worked in the Charity Shop for Distressed Animals
and the Hospice for Nondescript Sailors),
be it cockroach or spider
or the three-legged dog from down the road
that liked to creep under cars to snooze.

Where have his nine lives all gone?
Moses sighs, quite woe-begone;
his salad days have flown and fled,
his vital signs are in the red.
Surely it wasn't really five years ago
he'd given that great ugly gecko that lived in the roof
a run for its money
when it came down to catch moths on the window each night
and scarred it terribly for life
on its fat and mottled tummy!
Ah, if only he had been born a tiger in the country
instead of just a household tabby!

Perhaps if he really wanted to
he might still catch those cheeky mice
but to be perfectly honest it would be a lot of effort
and, frankly, they never managed to taste
quite as nice as they did when he was young
- in fact they tended to stick inside his tthroat
and clog his aging tongue with fur.
He was loathe to admit it but he much preferred
the moist perfection of the Tuna Chunks in Saline Sauce
the old fool Evans sometimes gave him
(although generally he was lucky if he got biscuits).
Moses curled his grey-whiskered lip:
his 'Master' - for want of a better word -
was far too parsimonious for his liking
and seldom even bought him fish
although, heaven knows, it was cheap enough in the market,
and when he did ocassionally splash out
he generally only got the head and bones,
with a bit of flaked chili swimming in grease,
- tasty enough, to be sure
but these days his stomach was quite sensitive
and more than once he'd had to make a mad dash
for the garden and give his bowels a quick release...

And then there was the Neighbour's Cat,
a smug and evil looking fellow
always lurking underneath the motorbike
and sniffing at his front-door mat;
almost certaintly it was him who got into the roof
someimes and used it as a toilet.
There ought to be by-laws against it.
If his 'master' had any get up and go he would have
laid traps for it long ago, eviscerating and boiling it
for the opportunist vermin that it was...
A cat of his age shouldn't have to put up with such things
as strange cats breaking and entering
and malodourous pongs of a urinary nature
(almost certainly it didn't have legitimate papers).
He's even seen it once or wice
toying with his very own mice,
tossing them high up into the air and decapitating them
with a negligent and devil-may-care, proprietorial air
- the cheek of it!

Old Moses opens a tired eye.
Why, there is a mouse sitting right in front of him now,
washing its whiskers and staring him straight in the face!
"Oh, its you," he says, recognising
his old adversary Tobias Timmikins,
"you've come to gloat at me in my misery, I suppose,
knowing full well I'm old and stout and riddled with gout.
Just go away and leave me alone, can't you
- today's my birthday and I can't be botherred with the likes of you."
"I know its your birthday," pipes up Timmikins,
"and I've brought you this dead sparow.
Its still quite warm - it was only knocked over a moment ago
by the water-melon man's barrow."
Despite himself, a tear comes unbidden to Old Moses' eye.
He ought at least to snarl and take a swipe at the little rodent
but he doesn't have the heart to even try.
"Thank you very much," he says at last,
"Would you care to share it with me or, if you like,
I have a bit of old lizard I was saving for later.
If you close your eyes and use your imagination,
it might almost be an alligator."

"Hmmm, well," Tobias was about to say,
"alligator has never really agreed with me,"
but he bit his tongue and nodded his head.
His ancient arch-enemy might not see another summer
and such old-timers needed to stick together.
"Well, perhaps just a bit," he said, nodding his head,
"but I can't stay long - I have to get back to my nest
and put my granddaughter's children to bed:
they like to have me tell them a story,
something fanciful and gay
and just a little bit frightening... "
"Do any of them have me in them?" asked Old Moses curiously.
"Of course," lied Mister Timmikins,
"my tales of Old Moses are their favourite
- they shiver and squirm and roll their eyees
behind their paws and fingers;
why, sometimes I even make myself quite nervous!"

Old Moses nodded his head.
"That is how it should be," he said.
"Perhaps someday you will bring them to see me
- while they still have the chance, you undderstand -
I suspect I'll be off to the Mouse Meadows of Venus before too long
and then of course there can only be a perfect
and most natural emnity between our kind
and the most delightful hunting and slaughter
but in these last, long twilight days,
I cannot bear you any ill.
Bring your granddaughter too, if you will,
it will be pleasant to have some company... "

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