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poetry A Group of Rats Is Referred to as a Mischief

For poet Joseph Zaccardi, the Vietnam war lingers in memory for the fear it wrought among soldiers, but also the loss of camaraderie “after all these/years scattered across American towns and cities…”

A Group of Rats Is Referred to as a Mischief

                                    ––Jeff Andrews LCpl

By Joseph Zaccardi

Male rats are called bucks while unmated females

are referred to as does and pregnant or parent

females are called dams while the infants are

called kittens or pups and there’s a species of

rodents indigenous to Vietnam about the size of a

full-grown Boston Terrier that runs in packs and

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we heard their menacing rumble under our

Quonset hut bumping the tongue and groove

floorboards and when I say we I mean a squad of

nine soldiers sometimes called grunts or draftees

or sometimes referred to as enlisted or as cannon

fodder or comrades-in-arms or cited as departed

heroes so we lowered our voices sensing that these

oversized rats could hear us and attack and for

once our mouths were dry in this country of

humidity and beauty and pleading and in a while

this passel of rodents was gone but we stayed put

whispering softly to each other and made a

promise not to mention our fear if we got back to

the states but of course in hindsight after all these

years scattered across American towns and cities

like pack rats bushy-tailed woodrats field and

marsh rats I think we miss not being unified in our

unease I think we miss being back together.

Joseph Zaccardi: To write a single poem is a selfless act and a minor miracle. But

miracles, minor or otherwise, don’t happen by happenstance; they are engendered in

part by hard work and in part by the generous help of others. His Sixth book of poetry,

Songbirds of the Nine Rivers, will be published by Sixteen Rivers Press in 2023.