The Imperial Cockroach
This morning at 7:36 AM
I crushed a cockroach to death
with the heel of my right boot.
I still feel guilty.
Yet, at this very moment
perhaps as many as 12.6 million people
or more—right now!—
are smashing, beating or spraying
some innocent roach to death
somewhere on this dying planet.
The roach’s only crime—its very existence.
This humble creature
is one of the most ancient of the world
predating by millions of years
the Cro-Magnon Women
who screeched and stamped it to death
with bare feet
in their dank caves.
Really, the roach
belongs to the nobility,
a prince of the animal kingdom
like a crocodile
or some ancient micro-organism
that has survived
for 350 million years.
Long after we have exterminated
nearly everything on earth
crawling over our graves
will be the imperial cockroach
its antennae twitching,
pointing to the next millennium.
I was born where orange groves
run in geometric rows to a horizon of low hills,
the fragrance of their blossoms
perfuming humid nights of whippoorwills and mosquitoes;
water moccasins so lethargic and fat
they looked like branches waterlogged in the lake.
Though I have lived in cities
of towers and snow, car alarms and ice
the compass of my soul points South.
The gyroscope of my heart always wobbling southerly.
When I die, lay me under the miserly shade
of a palm—sable, coconut, date—
whatever you can find
or under the exuberant shade
of a live oak, its branches
embracing the space
where you left me.
Point my head to the sun
my heart to the South
and fold my hands in grateful prayer of thanks
that I am home.
” Entropy is the general trend of the universe toward death and disorder”–James R. Newman (American Mathematician)
After our celebratory dinner at the restaurant, and the gifts,
we went back to that house we had rented
years before to see how much the bamboo
we’d planted had grown. We should have never gone back.
It was impulsive…we were near the exit when I said, “let’s have a look.”
We couldn’t find the house. Nothing looked the same.
“Isn’t that the cantina?” You asked.
“I’m not sure. So many new houses, stores.
Yes, there’s Tonino’s Tacos down there.
Turn left at the next block.”
Suddenly we were upon it.
The landlord had neglected our home
that now stood up to its ripped screens in weeds.
The bamboo, enormous, its shoots the size of my arm
had smashed through the windows.
We sat in the car mute.
The neighbors emerged from their homes
like survivors of a war,
They had grown older
and their children awkwardly larger.
“So sad,” one elderly neighbor whispered,
shaking her head, her chin pointed to our home.
We spoke little on the way home.
What was there to say, anyway,
other than entropy and time had done its grim work?
You were probably thinking
the same thing I was…
that time was working on us as well.
But as I hung up the new shirt and tie
you had bought me, you said it anyway,
and without the least trace of irony:
Jonathan Harrington has published twenty books including poetry, novels, essays and translations. A graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop he has lived in Mexico for over twenty years. His latest book of poems is The Frozen Sea Within Us: New & Selected Poems (www.beltwayeditions.com). The book covers forty years of a life in poetry.