Jonathan Harrington

The Imperial Cockroach; The South, Entropy: Jonathan Harrington

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

including ourselves,

crawling over our graves

will be the imperial cockroach

its antennae twitching,

pointing to the next millennium.

The South


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.

“What happened?”

They shrugged.

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:

“Happy Birthday.”

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 ( The book covers forty years of a life in poetry.