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Cockroach Poem

November 12, 2007

I am not afraid of the obviously dangerous; can appreciate
the snake, his contractions and curls, the calligraphic language
of his body in motion; or the spider and her radial body,
her windowpane webs gathering gnats and beading the dew.
But you, what purpose do you serve besides your own ugliness,
lurking in lightless places, defying my appointments
with the exterminator, my daily cleanings, my commitment not
to attract your kind. Last night I heard you whispering
through the air filter in my bedroom, the soft
and unmistakable grating of your wings like skin peeling,
like an unfolding letter of condolence, the black
almond of your head poking through a white slat,
just for a moment, then disappearing, continuing to scratch
inside the air shaft long after I went to bed.
In the morning I pulled the filter out of its frame,
found your crisp and iridescent body wedged into thick lint
and filter fibers. Because of your size, I can determine
you don’t live inside, that you come from one
of the chokecherry trees in my front yard, but it doesn’t matter.
I imagine you everywhere that is dark and unacceptable,
a little raisin shell skittering over plates and guest towels
and spoons, like an undeniable truth, like a haunt
across a grave, dragging your armor of indifference.

by Cynthia Cox

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  1. November 12, 2007 at 11:36 pm

    What striking, evocative images. “Calligraphic language,” “like an unfolding letter of condolence,” and “I imagine you everywhere that is dark and unacceptable” stuck out as especially strong. Well done!

  2. Rob
    November 13, 2007 at 5:25 am

    I guess an insect theme lends itself to dark psychological metaphor, but this poem does it particularly well, I think. Really good stuff!

  3. Christina Pacosz
    November 27, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    Oh, yeeeuch! You’ve captured the encounter quite succinctly! Still, despite my loathing of the cockroach I must admire how it manages to survive against everything we humans do to it.

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