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THE RUST OF THE SUN

A couple in their seventies
bring a dead rat to a room
where seniors meet. Lots of
moans and curled faces. She says
it chewed a hole in the morning.

He's got a new recipe for
Four and Twenty Blackbirds.
I can't tell if he's joking,
the way he says it with a face
plain as the sun.

The rat they show around is beautiful:
brown-furred with a silky tail
and pinkish feet.
She said peanut butter
lured it to her trap.

Picture them in their courtship days:
she hitchhiking 700 miles
to San Diego just to see him
on shore leave — he catching hell
from his captain for
her wartime telegram.

How else can they prove
the sun still shines between them
than by bragging to their friends?

      — Scott Reid