Monthly Archives: October 2009

Keats-Shelley prize

The Small Boy and the Mouse by D H Maitreyabandhu

When he closed his eyes and asked the question,

he saw an egg, a boiled egg, lodged

above his heart. The shell had been broken off,

with a teaspoon he supposed, it was pure curd white

and still warm. Inside – he could see inside –

there was a garden with rows of potatoes,

sweet peas in a tangle, and a few tomatoes, red

and green ones, along with that funny sulphur smell

coming from split sacks. There was an enamel bathtub

in the garden, with chipped edges, a brown puddle

staining around itself, and a few wet leaves.

He could see down the plughole, so the sun must have shone,

and he heard his father digging potatoes,

knocking off the soil, and his mother fetching the washing in

because the sky promised a shower. There was a hole

or rather a pipe under the tub, where the water went,

and down at the bottom was a mouse – its ribs were poking out,

its damp fur clung together. The mouse was holding

a black-and-white photograph of a boy

who might have been three or four years old;

the boy was playing with boxes, or were they saucepans

from the kitchen? – he was leaning forward and slightly blurred.

And what was strange about the picture,

apart from being held by a mouse who sat on his haunches

and gripped it in his forepaws, was that the space

around the boy, the paleness around him, expanded,

got very bright and engulfed the mouse, the bathtub, the garden,

and the egg with its shell cracked off.

After that there was nothing, apart from the dark

inside the boy’s head and a kind of quiet

he’d never had before. He opened his eyes. All the furniture

looked strange, as if someone had rearranged it.

From here. More about the poet and the prize on that page. Go read.