Five O'Clock Somewhere

Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Poetry Corner: B. Kliban

You knew that since I deal with both cats and poetry, I’d end up here sooner or later

When the weather turns cold in late fall, mice begin to move indoors. Poisoning the mice is not a good idea; they have a habit of dying someplace inconvenient, such as inside a wall, where their decomposing bodies generate a stink. Or if they die someplace accessible, something else will eat them and get poisoned – a cat, dog, coyote, fox, raven, falcon, owl … something we’d usually rather remain alive. Traps aren’t usually a good idea either; in areas where hantavirus is a problem, the mice in the trap leave droppings that can spread disease.

The very best way to deal with mice is to seal all of the cracks through which mice might enter the home. That can be challenging, since they can squeeze through a quarter-inch gap.

This fall, we have had a convergence of two factors. First, the weather stripping on the bottom of the door between the garage and the house has come loose, so there’s a gap big enough for mice to get through. Second, we have only one cat now; in the past, we had two, and I think that the presence of the cats was a deterrent to rodents who might have thought about coming into the house.

The result has been a succession of mice coming into the house, only to meet their doom in Dulce’s claws. Mostly, she sees them as delightful toys, and she derives great pleasure in playing with them until such time as they lose their entertainment value (i.e., die). At this point, she usually chooses to bestow them as gifts for her human servants, but if she’s hungry, she’ll have a snack.

This afternoon, she bagged a mouse before suppertime. So she ate it. I was surprised how crunchy a mouse is – it sounded like she was eating her kibbles. I guess I had either imagined the cat swallowing the mouse more-or-less whole, as a snake does, or else I figured the flesh of the mouse would muffle the sound of the mouse’s bones breaking. Not so.

The whole episode reminded me of a T shirt that a cousin of mine had had during the 1970s, a cartoon by B. Kliban of a cat, strumming a guitar, with this verse:

Oh, I love to eat them mousies,
Mousies what I love to eat,
Bite they little heads off,
Nibble on they tiny feet.

I went online to learn more about this verse and about Kliban … The most useful information I found was his obit from the New York Times. He was an art school dropout who enjoyed the company of cats but who, in his own words, was “not silly” about them.

The best I can say is that he was a genius who died way too young.

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