Rat Off My Back

for J. D.

I work the seventh floor
VAMC Psychiatric recreational therapy
Game and TV room named for a petty officer KIA,

Where a sketchy male voice whispers
Through whiskers and whacks of a cue ball:

Can you get that rat off my back?
Trained to discourage their delusions,
I invite Ramon to share photos of his Harley,

Remark on how the April lawn’s sprouting
Jonquils just past the east-facing window.

Medication, sugar cookies, bottled iced tea
Arrive arrayed on a plastic tray, when Ramon pleads:
Can you get that rat off my back?

I adjust the thermostat,
Play Elvis “Love Me Tender” on the jukebox,

Lose a game of spades to a double-amputee,
Check blood pressures – high, normal.
Low, softly, Ramon implores me:

Can you get that rat off my back?
So, I say: OK, sure, Ramon. And flick it off.

Kae Chatman is a queer poet, veteran, and former university professor. Born in New York City and raised in Arkansas, Kae holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Wichita State University, and an MA and PhD in Philosophy from Kansas University. She has taught at Philander Smith College and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, among others. Kae has poems published or forthcoming in Lavender Review, Salvation South, NonBinary Review, Sage Cigarettes, and Hallaren Literary Magazine. She still lives in Arkansas with her wife and beautiful dachshund.

See more of Kae's work in 12.1

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