Friday, August 5, 2011

Poetry Friday: The Meadow Mouse

I've been working on a museum project, writing the text for the panels beside the exhibits. My client wants a conversational tone to the information and an emphasis on habitat.

Here's the text for the White-footed Mouse:

The White-footed Mouse lives in warm, dry forests and brushy areas near the edge of woods. These mice usually come out at night. They are good climbers and good swimmers. They drum their forepaws on hollow reeds to produce a musical, buzzing sound. Scientists have no explanation for this behavior. The mouse uses its keen eyesight and sharp senses of hearing, touch, and smell to locate food and avoid predators. Nuts, seeds, fruit and berries, small insects, and fungi make up the mouse’s diet. These mice nest in underground tunnels, brush piles, or rocky crevices.
Conversational, but a bit dry.
Then last night I was reading through Theodore Roethke's The Far Field and found this. It's why I love poetry.
The Meadow Mouse
In a shoe box stuffed in an old nylon stocking
Sleeps the baby mouse I found in the meadow,
Where he trembled and shook beneath a stick
Till I caught him up by the tail and brought him in,
Cradled in my hand,
A little quaker, the whole body of him trembling,
His absure whiskers sticking out like a cartoon-mouse,
His feet like small leaves,
Little lizard-feet,
Whitish and spread wide when he tried to struggle away,
Wriggling like a minuscule puppy.

Now he's eaten his three kinds of cheese and drunk from his bottle-cap watering-trough--

So much he just lies in one corner,
His tail curled under him, his belly big
As his head; his bat-like ears
Twitching, tilting toward the least sound.

Do I imagine he no longer trembles
When I come close to him
He seems no longer to tremble.

Read part 2 here.

Stop in at Libby Franke's blog, A Year of Literacy Coaching, for the Poetry Friday Roundup.


  1. "a little quaker" -- love that! And love the information in your piece about the way they drum their paws. Great little hidden gem, and you share it beautifully.

  2. What Irene said. ;0) Re. Roethke, I quite like the last lines of part 1:

    "Do I imagine he no longer trembles

    When I come close to him

    He seems no longer to tremble."

    And I'd almost like the ending here, rather than the continuation, but Part 2 is part of life, too I suppose - so thanks for sharing all.