Year Two Green got classroom pets:

wrinkled, writhing forms with

salmon-pink tails and milky fur;

a pair of mice—one boy, one girl.

 

We thrust pellets on them

with texta-stained hands, as they

ran on wheels that went nowhere.

I wondered if we were caged,

like them, and if they thought so too.

 

We voted on names in secret ballot:

our teacher counted paper scraps to

announce that the female would be

Jasmine, like the princess from Aladdin.

I stared into garnet-red eyes,

which were more like the snake staff

Jafar used to hypnotise.

 

Within days, her fur was slick with sweat

as her belly drooped with new absence.

Seven babies hung from her teats, draining

milk and turning her, it seemed,

more translucent with every swig.

 

I couldn’t hold the hairless things,

thinking they looked like

dismembered pinky toes.

Repulsed, I feared I’d drop them,

that they’d break, or worse,

multiply and carpet the floor,

making us wade

through slithering coral.

 

One day the babies were gone, and

Jasmine sagged, lumpy and full.

‘If mother mice are stressed,

sometimes they eat their young,’

our teacher said, as we sat before her,

cross-legged, stunned.