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,