I remember the mouse; I recollect the essay; I see the stove in the kitchen. I imagine seeing her seeing the mouse; I think I can recall her having said that I needed to get glue traps, that she had seen last night its tail scurrying below the stove. I wondered what Robert Burns would do if he came across a mouse in his home. I am sure he would not go to get glue traps. I did not wonder then if I should get them, nor did I question the ethics of glue traps. I bought them at the 99 cent store. I do not imagine many consider the ethics of glue traps; some do wonder if they are humane. I would not wonder now, if I were to get them, if my actions were ethical. But I did; I got them, how much later, I cannot say. I did not go right away to buy them. I asked myself if the Romans would have glued Christ to the cross instead of nailing him there, if they had the glue to do it? They did nail him, though; they did not glue him, to his cross, the wood, what glue was there at the time of Christ that would have supported him on his cross? We would glue Him instead of nailing him to his cross, wouldn’t we? Anyone to any cross.
Everywhere crucifixions to be seen, to have impact, to instruct public morality. How much glue would we need to stick the Incarnation of the Son of God to the beams. Crassus had how many of Spartacus’s army crucified from Brindisium to Rome, along the sides of the roads leading to Rome from Brindisium . . . the spectacle of public execution; public executions are spectacle. Who among us would not go to see one, if only to be among the crowd and to watch the people responding to the act itself, the presentation, who would not offer his own theater criticism to such public spectacle. I too would at least go to watch the crowd–the mob–their faces, what would they wear on their faces, the kinds of expressions, what? The guillotine was public theater, no? I remember an essay by Camus about the final days of public guillotining in France.
Executions for the most part have always been about public spectacle–I do not understand the antiseptic lethal injection, and indoors, away from the public; yet, there is an audience. Could prisons sell tickets to help fray the costs of running the prison?
I used to think that I sympathized with Seneca the Elder when he said that Crucifixion could instruct public morality, at least I can imagine being a Roman like him and thinking the way he thought. There is something else not necessarily inhumane about understanding the Roman mind that used Crucifixion as a tool of instruction, based most certainly join the effective display of tortured humans, even if the victim had been sufficiently dehumanized by his criminal status, for to treat any criminal with crucifixion was within reason and the scope of rational behavior. It was appropriate. I have this hunch that the further French get from the memory of the guillotine, the less free they are.
It is not stretch for me to think that capital punishment makes sense, even though I do not believe it is a deterrent. The sense that capital punishment makes is rooted in the power of fear and the theatricality of the presentation of cruelty. Nonetheless, though, I caught him, the mouse, yes, on the glue traps I had bought and left strategically placed for him to get caught on them in the middle of the night, in the dark. I woke the next morning in anticipation. I found him in the kitchen writhing on the glue trap on the floor next to the floor boards of the cabinets that separate the sink and the stove. We finally had a man come in a few years later and redo the wall behind the stove from where other mice have made their way into our kitchen. Nonetheless, I found him there desperately and savagely trying to free himself. As he continued to do this, I carefully picked him up with latex gloves on–I picked up the trap with him securely fixed to it. I then dropped him writhing into a plastic bag. I then tied and retied the bag shut tight, hoping, later, I thought, that the mouse would soon suffocate. I imagined this a act of mercy on my part. I do love myself, as my wife insists–but not too much, as she also always adds. I was being merciful. If the Romans wanted to be merciful when crucifying you, they shattered your legs to hastened your death. How intensifying the pain for a shorter time translates into being merciful tells me everything about the transformation of mercy and compassion that Christianity brought to the ancient world.
I dropped him down the chute. I did not think of him in the plastic bag on a pile of garbage and other garbage coming down on top of him in the bag. I did imagine myself compassionate. I imagine the mouse tied in a plastic bag . . . how can I compare this mouse to Christ Jesus Word become Flesh, I might think about how . . . I have thought to ask how I compare thee little mouse–to what do I compare thee? I do not ask. I do not wonder. I ask not who the shutting is for. I open the garbage chute door to a protracted creak. The garbage chute door slams for thee; I let it go, not on purpose. It does slam for me as it does for you.
The mouse could possibly tear himself free from the glue, but not without tearing great chunks of its own flesh off its body; the rats would eat him if they found him torn opened between the walls or somewhere among the trash. No cruel and unusual punishment is not for mice. Mice are not protected by the Constitution; I am wondering if you and I still are. I wonder if the relationship of the monied and the power elite in America to me–an intellectual relationship, and imaginary one–I wonder if their relationship to me in their minds is not something akin to my relationship to this mouse. I have caught other mice on glue traps–it is my preferred method of execution–should I say torture. Am I running a Guantanamo for mice? I lose no sleep over him trying desperately to free himself from the trap by tearing off great rifts in his fur and flesh.
I have not come to a place where I actually care about the suffering of this mouse rodent vermin deserving to die because it came into my home invaded–yes, invaded as I haver said will say again, might just say it again and again without noting the repetition as if repeating it were normal what is expected should be.
A mouse, I see under the stove, she said she had seen last night its tail. I think I too saw the mouse scurrying below the stove. I had written about this before, theme-in-variation consumes my writing, how many times can I multiply the revisions is not a question I ask seriously. I know the answer would be, ad infinitum, if not just in perpetuity. Why do I need to telegraph for those of you who either have not read the other essay in variation, or will not read it because like most (even educated readers) you will not sustain enough energy to drive on through to the end of an essay written in a tradition of writing we have been taught, even at undergraduate level, is unnecessary, or perhaps elitist, and something we do not need to endure, something for which we need not show any acumen, something we must strike from the boards in order to support the kind of education most of us believe will be more democratic because it is more diverse. We do assume that by striking older standards of achievement from our education, we can open areas of learning and discourse to members of groups that had been allegedly kept from positions of educating, whether in our schools or in our universities. By this exclusion, they have been kept out of the mainstream of critical discourse. These attempts to rectify these wrongs become an attempt to further the cause of democracy and more widely disseminate social justice.
I have to kill the fucking mouse who thinks my home is now his home.
I have been told that catching mice on glue traps is inhumane; I held no such consideration then, nor do I now. Eliminating any concern anyone might have had that I could have had about the inhumanity of glue traps–I had a revision for them. Now, where vermin are the concern in my home, I hold no such delusions about my hunter instincts being humane or inhumane. Catching the mouse is prime, and the easiest way for me to get them would be with glue traps. The old convention of the spring trap I probably find crueler, and I do not exactly know why. If I have to block one off behind a dresser and spray ammonia at it or into its eyes to have him then blindly run in the other direction onto a carefully set glue trap, then I will; and I not only will do it, but I will lose no sleep over it. I assert the fact that I do not lose sleep over catching mice as just that, what it is, a fact without any association to pride or grandiosity. Glue traps have been effective for me in the past, and I would not look for another method in the future if I should need to catch another mouse. I do say with a peculiar sense of pride that I am a successful hunter of mice.
I want back all the letters I have ever written so I can revise them. I perpetually revise the essays I have collected in the pages of this review. Should I use the present tense or past tense? How I frame time in either narrative or exposition is an important consideration. Tense, we know, is not time. How tenses order what is said is more important than we might suspect or want to consider. Garcia Marquez allegedly spent 10 years writing One Hundred Years of Solitude because he was considering, he was weighing, while he was writing and rewriting one sequence after another, the tenses–which tense–what the sequence of tenses should be in passage after passage. Yes, how to convey time in narrative has been a considerable preoccupation fro writers for centuries; time on the clock and time in the mind, neither one the other the same, How time moves or does not move–I do understand that all time is one and that what Einstein said to us more than a century ago is true, that past, present and future are illusions. What then is this idea we have about time, our time, being ordered along the categories of past, present and future? This idea is just that, an ordering, which is what narrative is, exactly, and the demands of narrative have been served by the integral and in tutee develop of language itself.
How we tell anything is our story and all stories have the forms of narrative expression as their governing force. My story is in effect a history of a kind and history is the narrative of a people, a nation, a place, or anything that could be told in this way, with a beginning a middle and an end, thus the arrangement of facts and events and happenings and thus a narrative, a story, a history, and ordering of time, which is what pour tenses do especially well. Tense is not time . . . how we move through time might be a question. I have before in other essays and poems considered the notions–or should I say metaphors–of time as the moving arrow and time as the tunnel we move through. Yes, time is one and time is the other; but then, time is both; just as time is neither. Time is each one as light is both particle and wave.
What then must I say . . . she asks–she insists–that I get them, insists again that I do, Buy glue traps. Repeating herself for emphasis, as if her tone, her inflection, her obvious vocal distress was not enough. Go get them, over and over. Again, Go get them at the 99 cent store. Again, I did get them. As I have said already, I have no problems catching mice, inevitably killing them. I have said this before here and in the other essays. I take no pride in the fact, nor do I side-step the responsibility one must take for killing any living thing for any reason–and here I am trying to be high-minded, trying to appear more sensitive than I am about this, which is not to suggest that I am not sensitive or that I am too frequently insensitive or that I am not appropriately sensitive when sensitivity of the kind others might feel is warranted with respect to the mouse I inhumanely captured and suffocated in a plastic bag is needed. I do not equivocate over what killing is and what murder is, and I know that killing a mouse is not murder. Killing my neighbor’s ridiculously stupid dog is also not murder–and yes, dogs can have widely varying degrees of intelligence. Killing my neighbor could be murder, unless he does not like that I killed his dog and thus tries to kill me; which I, in turn of self-defense, would be compelled to kill him. This, I imagine I could do . . . killing my neighbor under such circumstances might not be murder, most likely not, unless after having incapacitated him in his attempt to kill me, I continue by taking a branch of tree and beating him to death. Nonetheless, killing or murdering my neighbor–certainly not the mouse–are not the same.
I can also say, with respect for the mouse, that Robert Burns would not go to get glue traps. Why I said what I said about the Scots poet Burns is directly related to his poem, “To a Mouse, on Turning Her up in Her Nest with a Plough,” written in 1785, two years after Blake’s Poetical Sketches and nine years before the latter’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, itself four years prior to Wordsworth and Coleridge’s first edition of The Lyrical Ballads. No, Burns would not go to get glue traps–himself focussing on the timorous little beastie, the mouse in all of its terror, its shaking tremors themselves nearly snuffing out its life. I would let Burns’s mouse go; the one in my home I killed. How could I not have done so, I ask myself rhetorically.
I got them, though, the glue traps, later, when shopping for things she needed, things we needed for Thanksgiving, the mouse’s presence not one of the things we imagined we should be thankful for. I did strategically place them around the apartment, I even cornered him later, quickly placing the glue traps at both ends of the book-case he was behind, the two paths of escape as you can well imagine . . . I am beginning to think I have confused two different incidents, each one now becoming delineated, at first by accident, as when exposition or narrative sometimes arise, come forth, how exactly I write I have not considered. Does it matter? That is, does it matter how writing arises in me or that I may be confounding two separate past incidents. This incident is of a mouse that made its way into the living room, one I had at first noticed in the bathroom, in the tub actually . . . and how it made its way out of the tub and quickly out of the bathroom is still unknown even though I had my eyes on him all the time (at least I imagine that I did).
The mice I kill are always he, never she. Nonetheless, I then frightened him from one end of the bookcase more so than Burns’s plough frightened his mouse in its nest. I caused the mouse to run right into the two deep, traps I set insuring it would be caught on the glue and not able to leap over it as I had imagined after seeing what I cannot say I saw when the mouse got out of the tub I had imagined he was trapped in, I recall seeing him scurrying out of the bathroom frantically into the living room. Yes, I caught him on one of the traps, the first of the two in-line. The two in line at each end of the bookcase was insurance, as I have said, in case he thought to leap over one. We do anthropomorphize mice when we are trapping them; we begin to dehumanize them when we kill them. Imagining this, and thus humanizing the mouse, makes killing it more disturbing. This necessitates a re-dehiumanization, a particular verminization of the mouse. We must aggrandize our defeated foe, after he is defeated to raise ourselves in our self-esteem. When preparing to kill the mouse, it often shifts in reference from he to it, much the way the victims in the Nazis camps had undergone a systematic process of dehumanization that made killing them en masse more easily accomplished.
I did not imagine him to have the ability of thought–now I have further made the mouse anthropomorphic by referring to it once more as him. Yes, earlier I thought the mouse could have thought to jump . . . ah, plastic pools of glue for mice, supposedly baited, had come in handy. As I have been told that they are inhumane, I momentarily considered if they were, which is why I imagined putting it in a plastic bag to suffocate and die more quickly than writhing and tearing its flesh on the glue would have accomplished. Once more, in matters of ridding homes of vermin, I am a savage terminator. I did imagine the traps bringing more mice as I have always imagined the roach traps we put down bring more roaches.
Writhing as he was as on the trap I lifted it carefully with rubber gloves on my hand. Yes, he was vigorously writhing, not having exhausted himself yet. As he tried to twist and turn I put the trap with him securely glued to it in a plastic bag and tied it securely. I then put the plastic bag in another plastic bag and tied the second plastic bag securely in the hopes that the mouse would suffocate, lest he starve to death glued to the trap, or, instead, rip himself off the glue, thus tearing his fur and flesh, but escaping as he could easily chew out of the bags. I dropped him down the chute in the plastic bag I had put him, as I have said before in my other essay about a mouse, this little beastie . . . to suffocate–once more, I imagined this an act of suffocating to be merciful. Suffocating someone is more merciful than allowing him to starve to death, isn’t it?
How long he would live like that I did not consider, but I knew he would suffocate before he would starve to death or tear his flesh off and possibly bleed to death if I tied the bag securely, which I knew I had done. There were no holes in the bag, which I checked carefully for because this was an act of mercy. I know that sometimes the mice are strong enough to pull themselves off the glue but not without the glue tearing gaping holes in their flesh as one exterminator had told me at a Barnes and Noble I was working in decades ago. I always remember the Chief in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest suffocating McMurphy near the close of the film.
Would the Romans have used glue? I did not ask. I did pose this question. It is, though, one I have asked several times since; in fact, almost every time I have caught a mouse on a trap. I have subsequently had maintenance come to the apartment where they fixed the holes that were chewed through the inadequate plastic board at the base of the wall behind the stove. We have had no problems since. I have had no opportunities to be the hunter, a role I used to like. One I enjoyed. Killing is a Homo-Spiens pleasure; just as Chimps raiding baboon nests and chasing the adult baboons away so they can catch the baby baboons and beat them into a mushy, pulpy sack of blood and broken bones is a pleasure for Chimps. The chimps then play catch with the sack, standing in a circle the way kindergarten children do when they play toss the ball.
Sitting quietly on a train, as I have, as I do, will do, repeatedly the things we do day in day out the same way we never notice, creatures of habit. Here I am riding clink-clank across the bridge, Manhattan Bridge spanning erect across the waters, the East River flowing mutely in my eyes below, the lower Manhattan night-time skyline, undulant dots of light off each wave, an incandescent sonata with light layered in form, cream, I recall, in a Napoleon in a shop on Amsterdam, yes the pastry ripples, I remember una sfogliatella open cut, warm and flaky on a plate next to espresso after Easter lamb, what else is there to say about one or another revery of times gone by, the past is the past someone says–another says that the past is not past, that it doesn’t even exist except in how we remember it. Do we remember? What did we remember? I remember you, your skirts, your legs, your eyes, the world itself unbearable sorrow. What is there that I could or that I would say to you, other words for you, suiting action, you know–the words I say about what was are the only was that is. Words and actions do not meet; we must try desperately to make them do so.
To remember, to recall, to recollect, all of them–each one of them–different from the other; each one related, but not mutually interchangeable in every context of use. I never explained to you why the reasons of course why I did not could not speak to you after or again, and how I left you without so much as an appeal to destiny or vanity–you were the world for me that night into early A.M., over the latticed shadows of the blinds across your breasts I lay my head down to sleep, I prayed–what did I pray for, could I have prayed for that night that room your room from which I left for good for once for all to come again another evening, a cab home–and I wondered why I got fat with you–the cabs, you know–but you have since insisted that we walked a lot more back then, I think it is true, nothing I could have desired above all else, what else was there, there is no was only what is. This was that was is neither flesh nor blood nor the bones shaken to the marrow, yes you shook me to my marrow I did not tell you, you were too fucking haughty for me to tell you how I felt, actually–virtual reality has been our modus for a long time, but then, these recollections are not exactly in tranquility collected. I have lost control? Have I ever had control? What is the necessity of control?
Control is not what it has been misunderstood to be. I wish I had more of it over my life and others had less of it, the media and who own the media and who run the media controlling politics and politicians and political correctness and political opinions and political elections, how they do the way they do when they do where they do for whom they do, the whom for which the bell does not seem to toll. Wall Street, Hollywood, Broadcast and Social media and Publishing; all of a piece.
If my soul is a chariot, where then are the reins?