The City Mouse and the Country Mouse


A rough and ready cousin lived on barley and water,

and barley water, too,


and slept on a board, while the women of the city

dressed themselves as flowers. From


every ear a bauble spun, from every fez

a tassel.

                        Not me—I was barefoot

until I was ten and the boys wore

soft white dresses like nightgowns.


If you were in town

for just a week in summer, you’d find


yourself yearning

for big-ticket items.


What you cannot pronounce you’d pay

too much for; all the grit would be


glitter, and/or vice


         The dogs and cats are sprawling on the Turkey carpets;

a racket rattles the door.

The ortolan is steaming up the view


beneath the napkin. The portions are small, and there won’t

be any more. I do not like that music


at my dinner! I do not like

the growl of politesse!


Better beans and bacon, better some

peace, than

cakes and ale and guns and fear and butter.

Susan Stewart is the author of a book of poems, Red Rover, and a prose meditation, The Poet's Freedom: A Notebook on Making.

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