The Rat Raft

by ADITYA PANDYA

Johnny sailor, storyteller—back from the East, says:
There was a rat on the boat interfering with
the navigation equipment, an electrical needle 
that tells if the boat’s oriented along the wind.
It must teeter upon just the right degree of the dial, 
or the sails would swallow the salt wind so deep 
as to throw the boat up or slap it horizontal.

And one evening, he said, the needle went dead.
They had to burrow into the tangle of wires
even a sailboat today has got to have, to find 
the rat’s doing. He hadn’t meant to stop the needle, 
he’d only chewed the mesh to eat the black flies’ larvae.
The trap was set—a good glob of larva in some mesh 
sacrificed for bait—the rat was caught. But then what?

Can’t punish a rat for being a rat, they said. 
So Johnny built a rat-raft, an itty Kon-Tiki 
with a tiny sail and the flag of Japan. 
But no rat will step out of a trap and
onto a plank on anyone’s plan.

So first they set the raft upon the water bare, 
ten kilometers upcurrent from an island. Captain
Coco dove in, trap and all. Opened it. Godspeed 
the rat, he swam out right beside the raft—
but he paddled for the boat.

Our communication with rats is limited, we find. 
But ceremony might embrace a thing from behind. 
Coco blew a farewell tune on his flute 
and Johnny pronounced several lines 
to lay along the stretching span 

between boat and rat and raft. 

The sailboat in the poem is a laboratory-catamaran making the Nomade de Mers expedition to discover and document low-technology innovations around the world, led by Corentin de Chatelperron, “Coco,” as part of the admirable Low Tech Lab. Johnny is a part-time sailor, full-time Renaissance Man, and one of the pioneers of the experimental community of Auroville in southern India.

Aditya Pandya is a volunteer in Auroville. He is a writer, visual artist and dancer. In Auroville he works for the News & Notes and AV Art Service (adityapandya.in),

This poem was published in Hopper Mag https://www.hoppermag.org/the-rat-raft

Thanks to Aditya for permission to share it.