Audio: Read by the author.

He wanders
among us, village to

village, hauling his sack
of rats. Nightfall

he stands, at the edge now

of ours in
the dark releases them. They

gnaw our sills eat our
grain, they fill our

wells find our cribs
lurk among our

apples. Morning
comes, his shingle hung—

the solution is his song.
Some offer

gold, some offer milk, what else
to do, we’re over-

run, we each must make

a promise. Those
without, what can we offer—

a child will do, just give

a name, he’ll fold it up, he’ll
take our

word, his smile a blackened
sickle. He

plays his song, past barn, past
gate, the rats

now wake, they go
to him, the song he plays, they

tumble out
back into his sack. When he

returns, his fee now
owed, some

sense a trick, some sense a lie,

refuse to pay him. Our promise
breaks, he shakes

his head, he wanders off, we sense
a chill,

the woods around us dark

deep, the trees around us
listen. That

night he’s back, the song

he plays, our children rise
now up from sleep

out they stream, into
the street, parade away

behind him. Morning now

no one knows morning now
no one hears

to this day they’re huddled
now some-

where now they’re waking.