From sunless humming basement rooms there comes
that stench of urine-drenched wood chips and shit
in cages piled up to the ceiling tiles.
Small grafted tumors bloom from pale shaved skin.
Some mice don’t rest; they test their bars for hours
as others lie alone until they die.
For nervous breakdown, lab technicians make
a food dispenser—like our straw dispensers.
Rats quickly learn a tap will earn a pellet.
They press down ever faster on the lever,
then take a break to gorge and grip their food
like misers holding unexpected gold.
Chins sag and haunches spread; energy lags.
When pressing on the lever seems obsessive,
a post-doc tells the techs to stop the pellets.
Soon rats are banging harder on that bar;
they keep at it until exhaustion kills
their frenzy, then they droop into a stupor.
The techs inject the rodents with new compounds.
Within a week or so the cohort will
be “sacrificed” and challenged neurons sliced.
My neurons fray the way theirs do—when boards
politely loot, or parents brutalize,
or friends will never wake to hear farewell.