Cockroach Clearance

(warning: for reasons of its own, this poem will be rhyming more and more furiously as it goes along, at times lapsing into limerick. Perhaps this has something to do with the habit of roaches to clone themselves in a tumultous and accelerating way??)

India, 1974

I’m heaving lemon-tarts
from the Taj tea-room
into a hotel sink.
As my miserable eyes
I see Antennae
about ten inches long
protruding wigglingly
from behind the mirror.

India, 1975

When the Master moved
from Bombay to Poona
disciples were unpacking books.
Cockroaches ran out.
“Oh master, what should we do with the cockroaches?”
“Any cockroach that you see
liberate it from its body immediately!”

Japan, 1996

These guys
are different from the scooting
huge canny rapid Indian

They politely wait
standing in their white gloves, bowing
for you to squash them.
My colleague screams
and for once I’m macho
seizing up my Swedish clog
and braining them
while she trembles in a corner.

India, 1998:

My brother
informs me confidently
that roaches don’t like
red hot chili peppers.
For about two rupees
I buy big bags
of turgid red powder.
I take everything out
from under my bathroom sink –
the soap they love to munch,
the cleaning-rags they nest in
and use as potties,
the cosmetics bottles defiled
with tiny black dots on the lids
The buckets they scout and mark,
the lightbulbs whose padded packaging
they turn to Anasazi dwellings.

Then I spread red
hot chili pepper powder.
Lots of it.
I’m not famous for economy
nor knowing when to stop.
Both shelves are thick
with that caustic ick
which humidity turns to glop.

For a week the roaches are silent.
They are not heard
skittering around in the dark –
not a brown-clawed word.
I don’t see them dashing
across the bathroom floor,
never crashing. Always looking
for more.

Another week.
Things are quiet.
Did they take the chili home,
and fry it? To eat with the other
crap they found –
crap from life, crap from death.
I hold my breath –

And then –
gnaw, gnaw, gnaw –
Scutter! Scurry! Roaches,
rodents, in a hurry!
I open the cupboard doors…
Poppy-seeds from roaches!
They must have been
each others’ coaches!
The plastic package of red chili dust
I’ve parked here – where better –
chomped full of holes!
Those guys are eating that shit,
and growing stronger!
Their stinky whiskers and teeth
are longer!
Mutant roaches,
on the loose!
Chili-eating rats as their caboose!

I’m ashamed to tell you
I hired an Indian
to clean that cupboard out.
He was a studious Indian
who wore glasses
made no passes
and talked of religion and so on.
I paid him and sat on my bed
painting my toenails pink, not red
while he knelt on the floor
and patiently wore
through the chili-cement on those shelves.

After this I kept only
toilet-cleaner and bleach,
detergents and brooms
in that dank funky cupboard of gloom.
Roaches would stroll
but not rock ‘n’ roll –
well – not every night of the week
and the rat – what he did –
he who’d oft skate and skid –
if he prospered and stayed in the pink
I have definitely tried not to think.

Cockroach Cures

Now we backpedal to
Zurich, 1985: (as told me by a friend.)
Here’s an anti-roach technique
she used in an old Zurich building
from seventeen hundred and ten
where roaches outnumbered the men
women, cats, dogs,
fleas, lice, and frogs.
(I’d thought the Swiss,
prim pockets a-gilding
had abolished roaches and all of their kin).

These roaches made my friend’s life hellish
they’d not hesitate to embellish
their usual shenanigans
with take-over planigans
which they’d implement often, with relish.

In various parts of the world –
Malaysia, Borneo, or what-have-you
people eat cockroaches for dinner.
They’re obviously thinner
than you or me; but anyway
chocolate-covered cockroach
french-fried cockroach
cockroach meatloaf
are eaten daily
perhaps even gaily.

My friend, a resourceful sort
in desperation made it a sport
to concoct in her mind
cockroach dishes so fine –
and she filled up her head like a fort
with visions of roaches supine
on a platter, stuffed to make fatter
or simmered in spices and wine.

And it worked! The roaches desisted to zoom
each time she came into the room.
From kitchen and bath
they got out of her path –
as long as she whistled that tune.

Missouri 2005

Roaches dwelt inside our mailbox.
They’d ride into the house on the mail.
My man’d cry “Gross!” and drop all the post
swearing like Midwestern hail.

You’d probably just buy some pizen
and with it the mailbox bedizen.
But the previous owners
had done that, and the mail
would make my fingers fail
so buzzing with toxins it was –
and after I threw the poison out
and gave the old thing a good clout
with soap and a rag, the roaches-to-gag-
you with appeared back with a shout.

(I guess they just liked the glue
and some are philatelists, too.)

What next to do? I got on the Web
and found one great tip that I’m trying
but I caution you –do it only
if you can stand hearing cockroaches crying.

Mix half-and-half baking soda and sugar
and put it where the little boogers
have their haunts.
On their jaunts
they’ll eat the stuff – they can’t resist sugar.
But cockroaches’ stomachs are acid!
(Are you surprised? – They’re really not placid -)
The soda encounters
the acid – and BAM!
That cockroach has just self-exploded!
Then his relatives eat him all up!
Cannibals not scorning to sup
on fathers and mothers, uncles and brothers!
And all of the clan will blow up!

I invite you to try this at home
baking soda’s worth a whole tome –
and here once again
its marvels kick in –
turning rank roaches to foam!

June 11 ’05 Dancing Leaves

p.s. the concoction does make the mail sticky
but that’s not as icky
as Trojan roaches.