Neotoma albigula

Western white-throated woodrat

Charles Alexander



what do you carry

and are you fast

enough to disappear

with your belongings


what do you sing

and does your voice

throw open notes

into a dark room


can you spare a moment

to walk in the desert,

will you be silent

can we just watch

each other come to

terms with the light


whose west this is

whose white this is

in the throat of

woods in the throes

of words, rat tat tat

on wood I do not

know, amid the middens


we share an attic

or room enough to breathe

within pinched spaces within

a cloud that consumes us


new books, paper domes written

always by artificial light

always bejeweled light

prancing toward white pages

and western spaces burned

white-hot and choke-throat


blackened wood fragments

scatter the birds scatter

the rats the insects the

leaves we all depend on

in the books we write

by decreasing light in the

words that threaten more

in the semper fidelis maniacal

charge of untended fields


tomes and domes, open and

closed in the untended fields

the white-throated woodrat utters

a cry in fear and we hear and

hear our own voices echo


progress belongs to history which

goes the way of the unwanted

rat in the maze or the

dying light the eye-trembling

lack of light we can neither

read nor eat in the death

books with their black pages

we consume but do not stand

under green leaves or blue skies

but crawl with those under siege

those under the breathing room

in the sinking western sun


the wood rat waits for us

all to be gone, the survivor

in all of us waits, too


we might be wood rats, moving

scavenging, watching, waiting

we might be alive in the middens

we might be breathing in the room




Charles Alexander is a poet, book artist, editor, and Executive Director of Chax Press. His books of poems include Certain Slants (Junction Press, 2007) and near or random acts (Singing Horse Press, 2004).