Homage to Beatrix Potter


I

I do not know a lot about Beatrix Potter,
but if she were my daughter,
I would tell her not to bother, so much,
about good behavior.

I would wonder what I had done to her
and under what pretext
to have been turned into a Macgregor
for her Peter to anger.

And in a garden, over an issue like property.
And in the company of imploring
but otherwise quite useless sparrows.
Life was difficult in the nineteenth century.

But I don't think mothers, even then,
sent their sons to the usual slaughter
with a chuck under the chin
and a wry word about potted father.

And then went out to buy five currant buns,
including one for their errant son,
who might or might not, according to the whim
of dread, come home again.

I think of the mouse with her mouth full of pea
who stopped to gag something kind
but incomprehensible, and the cat
who twitched at the bright orange fish in the pond.

And the hob-nailed boots that kicked
through the potted plants, and the raised rake,
and the tiny rage at the little rabbit
whose only habit was eating.

II

I am the father of Peter Rabbit.
I was eaten by Mr. and Mrs. Mcgregor on Sunday
after being skinned in the tool shed,
boned in the kitchen,
and boiled for several hours in a metal pot.
Mr. Mcgregor said I was good.
Mrs. Mcgregor wasn't sure,
thought I was a bit stringy in places.
I was caught in the French beans,
a rake point driven through my skull.
I lived to be an example to my son.

III

It was the drawings I remember most,
the careful cabbages and a radish
that Peter seemed to pick his teeth with,
the tiny slipper in the dirt, and always
everything about to melt into the page
like snow falling on clear water, two versions
of the same thing merging, a bright inhuman
whiteness, a small world paling into it,
like animals pretending to be people,
an invisible barrier disappearing,
an unimaginable brotherhood
of living things, as a books stands between
nothing and the person reading it.


Roger Mitchell, Lemon Peeled the Moment Before: New & Selected Poems 1967-2008, Ausable Press, 2008.