The True Nature of Imaginary Things

Imaginary rats lurk in my kitchen. These rats lack something: Guile. Purpose. Intent. I worry I’ll tread on one in the dark. I flick the lights and bristle, sensing a rat, slick with sickness, in

Imaginary rats lurk in my kitchen.
These rats lack something:
Guile. Purpose. Intent.
I worry I’ll tread on one in the dark.
I flick the lights and bristle,
sensing a rat, slick with sickness,
in the corner.
A ridge of fur stiffens and glistens
along the curve of its spine.
Early one morning, I startle another one.
Tiny feet click-click-click, like gravel
strewn across tile, when it tries to dart
under a table.
There is no table in my kitchen.
The rat freezes midway across the Saltillo tile floor.
It means no harm. Imaginary evil never does.
Rats are too busy with rat business;
with being a rat.
Once, a friend caught one in a trap,
drove to the lake, submerged it for 10 minutes,
and left it there.
The rat beat him home.

Alan Toltzis is the author of two poetry collections—49 Aspects of Human Emotion and The Last Commandment—and two chapbooks, Nature Lessons and Mercy. His poems have appeared in numerous print and online publications and he serves as an editor for The Mizmor Anthology. Find him online at alantoltzis.com; follow him @ToltzisAlan.