Posts Tagged ‘Robert Peake’

Mice of the London Underground

April 24, 2013 9 comments

by Robert Peake

I. Covent Garden

Scruffy, ardent, fairy-tale dustballs,
your inheritance is meek—

precocious vermin, grey as soot,
you thrive on our absentmindedness—

a pastry crumb is as good as a seed,
soda stains as sweet as spring water.

There is black grease for mud,
trains instead of thunderstorms.

A crisp packet descends, relief aid
touching the helipad too late—

the rookie makes a dive, on instinct
to dislodge it. The train passes over

like night, like war, unstoppable.

II. King’s Cross

Every day, I look out for you—the movement
of shadow under a rail, along the ribbed
wall of cabling that spans the tunnel.

Some estimate you are half-a-million strong,
mice of the London Underground, which
sounds like a call to unionise, and see

how fast a childish fascination can turn
political? I only wanted your soft, coal-
black presence in my dull commuter’s life.

I only wanted to know how you coexist
on a mouse-wide bridge of cable, under
a humming metal track, when the train

announces its arrival by pushing the wind
into your conical face, and do you suppress
the urge to flee, lying stiff as a railroad tie?

Terror, for you, has become the only routine.
A wife stiffens at the late-night key in the lock.
A soldier salutes his orders into no-man’s land.

And you, soft sickly creatures, born
in darkness, live invisible and shit in places
where angels, on pin heads, could never stand.

The train squeaks to a halt in the charcoal tunnel.
The driver reassures us over the speaker. I listen
for you at the window, like a mother at her crib.

III. Farringdon
(after a prank notice about attacking mice)

Tuck your trousers in at Farringdon.
There, tiny lions will nibble your toes,
run up your suit leg and scar pantyhose.

They’re eyeing your soft ankle flesh,
gnawing through news of the Eurozone debt.
Pull up your socks to avoid the attack.

Don’t be a victim, secure your slacks.
The scavenging creatures outnumber us all,
just waiting for someone to fall.

Believe what is written on the train notice board,
and eye with suspicion the fluff on the floor,
the vermin at Farringdon are barbaric hordes.

Farringdon first, and then the whole world.
It starts at your ankles and ends at your purse.
Parasites in the shadows, waiting to lurch.

Tuck in, tuck in at Farringdon. Tuck in
on your way to the bank. Believe what you read.
Small creatures glare out from their greed.

Download the MP3

Robert Peake grew up on the US-Mexico border and studied poetry at UC Berkeley and the MFA in Writing Program at Pacific Univeristy, Oregon. He now lives just outside London, England. He writes about poetry and culture on his website at

Categories: Animals in the City Tags:
%d bloggers like this: