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Guinea Pig


A pet, domesticated overmuch,

Inhabiting interminable lulls,

Most pusillanimous of animals,

Inertia's own, quiescent as the sands,

And shy to venture even round the hutch,

Her pleasure is a motor in my hands,

An instrument set racing with a touch.


A little thing of breath and heat compact,

Mildest of spirits, in a flask of fur,

Without even a sound as signature,

No bark or whinny, whistle or meow,

No word to instigate or to react,

She gently nods assent to here and now,

An answer well-considered and exact.


I'll learn from this one how much not to do;

How large a silence to accumulate;

To serve with those who only stand and wait,

To change alfalfa, sawdust, water, salt,

For other needs as moderate and few;

To thrill when lifted; visited, exalt;

Nor ever speak till I be spoken through.


Alfred Nicol



2000 Commonweal Foundation, reprinted with

permission.  Originally printed in Commonweal,

a magazine of religious commentary.

Table background by
Amreta's Graphics Corner

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