Bourgeois Backsides

When the City of Pittsburgh sanitized its sewers, rats
scattered and scurried into the suburbs
where we fat white people live.

Rats aren’t supposed to roam our burrow-friendly loam.
They have no business slurping our suet shavings, imbibing
our bird poop, or taking advantage of hungover neighbors
who leave plastic garbage bags—remnants of their genteel
soirees—on back porches.

And now, rats in our garden! What a blister on our bourgeois backsides!

To prevent the spread of plague, I quit feeding our birds
and set-out bait-boxes for the vermin. Silence seared our
backyard. Birds left for more bountiful digs.

How could a benevolent God allow this to happen?

You shower once-a-week, floss every other night, shove
tasteless veggies down your throat, spend hours checking
labels on organic honey, arugula, oat milk, and tofu, walk
a couple miles a day, and then this!

No wonder atheism is on the rise!

I filled the empty feeders and waited, but our birds
remained AWOL. I meditated, I cogitated, I dumped
the mixed seeds that had molded in our basement
and added fresh-oiled sunflower seeds to the feeders.
A chorus of chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers,
and barn sparrows rescored our backyard soundtrack.

A smile whisked across my whiskered face, but not for long.

Images of swollen bellies, toddlers cuddling each other
to stay warm amid rubble, bomb-crater playgrounds, destroyed
villages and hospitals filled my inscape. In The Plague, Camus
wrote, “Who would dare to assert that eternal happiness can
compensate for a moment’s human suffering?”

Charlie Brice won the 2020 Field Guide Poetry Magazine Poetry Contest and placed third in the 2021 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize. His sixth full-length poetry collection is Miracles That Keep Me Going (WordTech Editions, 2023). His poetry has been nominated three times for the Best of Net Anthology and the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in Atlanta Review, The Honest Ulsterman, Ibbetson Street, The Paterson Literary Review, Impspired Magazine, Salamander Ink Magazine, and elsewhere. Read other articles by Charlie.