White-footed Mouse · Indigo Lake

White-footed Mice in Winter, Cleveland, 2020

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by Michelle Skupski

I want to like these mice,
I do. For my 8-year-old son

and his mess of predator/
prey lines in science class.

I feel safe
in that web. The mice

are always at the bottom
like in 7th grade

when I reached into the dark
shelf of my locker

and fingered the cold
squish of the dead

mouse. I didn’t want to
toss it in the trash

for the smell so I slid it
on my teacher’s desk and

left. I wanted to leave
my unease there too,

the memory of a lost
mouse stumbling through

our kitchen when I was 12,
my little brother climbing

the kitchen table, screeching
because a mouse does not belong

here. I am not a natural predator.
I don’t need

this mouse for anything and yet
here I am nearing my 38th year

still holding all these mice
close, squeezing. They scramble

around in my mind like
the many that foraged our attic

floorboards as I tried to sleep.
They won’t let me

rest. And I wonder now
who or what is safe

and when. I have a house
and a door and a lock and

still I find another mouse
making a home

in my other son’s rollerblade,
soft padding for safety

of another kind. Mouse,
will you ever leave me

alone? Dearest Self,
you are safe in your mask

in your bubble with a broken
garage door and not enough

money for repair. Today
you will feed the birds.

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Traveling Stanzas community arts projects bring poetry to people’s everyday lives through innovative methods and digital platforms.