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The Mouse

The Mouse
By John W. Sexton

While the saint was asleep a devil crawled out
from the dying coals of the fire. He scraped his feet
clean on the grate and shook sparks from his skin.
Embers of his flesh fell about the room, even fell
onto the blanket covering the snoring saint; but all were
immediately dampened by some hidden force.

The devil snorted. Saints were the pain in his pointed
tail. He hated them. Especially this fool snoring peacefully,
too stupid even to know that Evil was afoot in his room.
Something stirred by the saint’s ear. The devil hoped
it might be the soul of the saint, so he snatched it up.
But it was merely a mouse, trembling now in the devil’s

grip. On the translucent tips of the mouse’s ears the devil
could see a kind of light he’d never seen before. A light
more subtle than any light found in Hell. The devil hated
any kind of subtlety but the mouse carried his without
either arrogance or holiness, so he released it down onto
the floor of the room. The mouse scurried into the shadows.

The devil looked at the snoring saint; a saint more from
lack of temptation than sainthood; a saint of prayer
and mumbling. There wasn’t much here for the devil to take.
The devil could sense rot in the walls, the perfect vehicle
to travel by. With his body now as black as the deepest
shadow the devil stepped into the wall. The wall took to him

at once. In the now peaceful room the mouse emerged
from the skirting, the wall no longer a place for him to be.
The embers of the fire began to stir and something rose
from the dying coals. An angel grey as smoke
stepped into the bedroom, her wings opening out wide.
Still snoring, the saint slept on. The angel reached down

and picked up the mouse. On the translucent tips of the mouse’s
ears the angel could see the light that had long ago shed
from her wings. Here was her gift to the Earth. She looked
down at the sleeping saint, one only in the eyes of men. One
with not yet the innocence of the mouse, one not yet with

the resolute integrity of a devil. A long way yet until this saint
would ever be fit for the deep places of Heaven, where light
was given to mice and darkness was prized above all else.

* * *

John W. Sexton lives in the Republic of Ireland and is the author of five poetry collections, the most recent being The Offspring of the Moon, which was published by Salmon Poetry in 2013. He created and wrote the science-fiction comedy-drama, The Ivory Tower, for RTÉ radio, which ran to over one hundred half-hour episodes from 1999 to 2002. Two novels based on the characters from this series have been published by the O’Brien Press: The Johnny Coffin Diaries and Johnny Coffin School-Dazed, which have been translated into both Italian and Serbian. Under the ironic pseudonym of Sex W. Johnston he has recorded an album with legendary Stranglers frontman, Hugh Cornwell, entitled Sons Of Shiva, which has been released on Track Records. He is a past nominee for The Hennessy Literary Award and his poem The Green Owl won the Listowel Poetry Prize 2007. In 2007 he was awarded a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship in Poetry. His poems are widely published and some have appeared in Apex, Danse Macbre, Dreams & Nightmares, The 2012 Dwarf Stars Anthology, Eye to the Telescope, Fur-Lined Ghettos, microcosms, The Mystic Nebula, The Pedestal Magazine, The 2012 Rhysling Anthology, Rose Red Review, Star*Line and Strange Horizons.

Where do you get the ideas for your poems?

When I was a young boy I was entranced by tales of saints and their miraculous deeds. To my innocent mind they were no different to the super heroes and heroines that appeared in the comics I was then reading, and in common with them they were always on the side of the poor and the downtrodden. The only difference between them was that at the time, being brought up as a good Catholic boy, I thought such tales were straight historical accounts, because that’s how they were presented to us then. It was only as I grew out of such things that I viewed them properly: as myths containing spiritual truths and insights.

In “The Mouse” my intention was to invert that kind of story, but not as a mockery of such myths, but rather as a personal tribute to them. For, from the very beginning, they were an important personal foundation not just for my creative mind, but for the creative heart as well.