Friday, July 22, 2005

Dead Mouse on Beaudry Street

On Monday, I saw you for the first time. Freshly killed, on the center of the sidewalk between the parking garage and the place where I work. You were on your side, more bulbous than one would expect, but fully formed. If you had started to move right then, I wouldn't have been shocked. But I peered more closely - yes, that's a dead mouse. Too small and lovely to be a rat.

By Tuesday, they had started to eat you. By "they," I mean the gallant pigeons of downtown L.A. or maybe the hill ants, moseying down the weedy cliff alongside the visitors' lot that's not meant for visitors. You were a little less fatty, but you still had a form and a face. And you were finally out of the way, pushed to the grass alongside the sidewalk. No risk in me, or any of the other servants of the people, stepping on you.

On Wednesday, I forgot to look for you. Perhaps this was for the best.

By Thursday, you were a figment of your former self. Reduced to a skinny husk, face down, your head no longer to the side. If there was anything left of you to eat, the eater would have to be very very hungry.

Today, I could barely look at you. But I forced myself. No more will I avoid facing the difficult or the ugly. I'm a new man, with a new striped shirt. This morning, you were just a tiny stump of flesh-backed mouse hair, devoid of all nourishment and life. In a better world, you would have made a good head of doll hair. A male doll, swarthy with brown hair, lightly salted from the sea. Or maybe a female doll, an elderly detective with a matronly graying mop.

I'll be passing you at around 4:47 today when I go back to my car for the final time this work week. I doubt I'll see you on Monday. If I do, I'll give you a proper burial. I'll cover you with dead leaves and stray towels discarded by the homeless. I'll cover you with yesterday's front page of the L.A. Daily News, emblazoned with a story I had a little bit to do with (but I'm just the messenger!). I'll say a eulogy. "You loved Los Angeles, born and raised and died here, with the roar of the 110 Freeway your principal soundtrack. You succumbed to the heat of the dusty spotty summer. But there are worse lives. I didn't know you by name. But I'll give you a name. I'll call you Cynthia."


Jason B. said...

Oh, Ali. Can I share with you a poem I was recently compelled to write...


The tedium of heat on the
freeway as it rolls under me
at 10 mph. I look for anything to
to distract me, my arm hanging
out the window I see a box
under the car next to me, looking
closer it is not a box it is
a kitten. Spastic, eyes
closed, a furry fish with
four legs flopping flopping
flopping in pain. Electricity
charges my body in horror and
sympathy. Flopping spasming
kitten on the concrete cars rolling
I drove on. I left you. In my side view
flopping spasming.
How much you must have felt.
How much you could not
express without language.
I might have stopped. I am

Ali said...

Rabbi, great poem. I hope it's not based in reality. But if it is, what could you do? It was a freeway.