The Last Lady Ratcatcher

by Liz Berry

I was the last Lady Ratcatcher,
bore the scar of two yellow incisors
on my wedding finger.
Each night I crept out, cage ready,
my mind swift as a trap
on a neck bone, my beauty legendary.
I wore a cape of brown fur,
a belt of silver rats running
from buckle to back.
Gentlemen followed my scent
to the gutters for a flash of ankle,
the sight of my dainty boot upon a tail.
I wheeled the black rats
in a squirming tea chest
round the dog pits of Bow,
brought the pretty ones home,
kept them in a golden bird cage
by the bed, gorging on cheese,
licking the clotted dregs
from the cocoa cup. I fed them crumbs
from my lips, laid their heads
upon my pillow as I slept
in a bone white nightdress, dreaming
of fur, of rough pink tongues.