on killing roaches

they fly,
spilling through the open window
on a humid Sydney night,
and i am terrified, lights
dark, a distant tension in my chest
that tells me that the world’s
not round nor anything i ever, oh i–

so many roads—

hit my elbow
on the iron heater in the bathroom,
crying all the way to work– lap
wet, the endless highway stretched
like a band with sun and moon pinned to it,
medals to a soldier’s breast
but only
after death–  i
HYperVentiLate, stretch
aching legs,

on sun-baked stairs
under the sails of Sydney Opera house,
a minute– PleaSE just– One
more minute– FlaSH–
BacK– tight

wind blows- Blows– BLOWS— me
eastward as i’m crossing
Harbour bridge, they’re
creeping up the bus

an old man in
a faded t-shirt with deep holes,
dark eyes, turns around, shows a
toothless mouth, wrinkled face
and smiles at me, Kills ‘em
with oNe BloW of a flat hand

the weird gentleness
of someone who survived
too long already


hopefully no roaches in the pub kitchen but lots and lots of poetry… join us at 3pm EST at dVerse when joe hesch switches on the mic..


77 responses to “on killing roaches

  1. Reading your poem I thought: if we must kill something, let it be cockroaches 🙂 – and there prob aren’t that many people who would disagree with me… Loved that old man hero at the end who killed one with a single blow, and

    the weird gentleness
    of someone who survived
    too long already

  2. The cat will eat the roaches for you, good protein I hear. And look at you using such details as well, stealing Brian’s Gawker powers..haha

  3. somethings are meant to pass on, but unnoticed ?…never…everything deserves notice…even when the lights are off


  4. Creepy useless bugs roaches, will be here long after mankind.

    I am going to tell everyone that I have eared “the weird gentleness of someone who has survived too long already.” I think it suits me. 🙂

    Enjoy this!

  5. The finish, Claudia, of this fantastic piece really brings it home. The old man… it was nothing to him, having survived so long…awesome write!

  6. Oh, Yuck. I hate creepy crawly things. We get a few weeks grace between when the snows all gone, to once the nights don’t drop below zero and then all the nasty bugs arrive. Ones that bite and sting that I’m highly allergic too. Yuck!
    This sounds like the stuff of nightmares. Loved the image of the old man saving the day with one smack! Toothless or not, he did the trick.
    Lovely writing Claudia.

  7. roaches are insideous…getting into things where they dont belong…to me they are a metaphor and apt one…esp in light of….that tells me that the world’s
    not round nor anything i ever…because they will eat away at those truths we know or think we know…i like the old man and i am glad he is there in one swipe to take out the pests…smiles…

  8. I’m visiting my daughter in Arizona. We came in from her backyard where she had swept away some roaches. Then I read your poem. I’d say yuck, but your poem is much too good, even if the subject creeps me out.

  9. agreed with everyone about liking the old man, and not liking the roaches…Even that CCrruunnch sound they make under foot takes away some the satisfaction of killing them.

  10. I always think of New Orleans as home of the flying roaches..now I’ll think of Sydney too…and the old man I hope is near me next time I see them anywhere. Wonderful write…vivid.

  11. You really have lots of description here and it is very intense so that the reader can feel every inch of the poetry with you. Really enjoyed reading this.

  12. Remember them from my time on the equator.
    Your lines brought the horror and disgust all back.
    And forcefully at that,
    These days I feel guilty doing away with a spider or a fly.
    I’m sure the clouds of cockroaches whirling around an airport light would still make me feel murderous again.

  13. Very neat Claudia. i swear your travels are amazing to read about. I love the way you describe these trips, as you seem to always find the poetry in every place you go. The last stanza is extremely strong, perfect culmination. Great write Thanks

  14. Wonderful combination of blows here — the wind – the cockroaches themselves blowing through the window, you on the heater – the old toothless guy! k.

  15. This has such an anxious quality to it….the old guy on the bus- toothless- just gave this extra eeriness – the cockroaches – real or imagined I wonder- this for me was a poem all about anxiety, self doubt and self esteem…very cleverly done- and drawing the reader in with hyperventilations and the slap of a bug killing hand! Fantastic

  16. …but don’t ya almost gotta admire roaches? Aren’t they the oldest living Peeps, having survived all the ice ages, holocausts, and everything else.

    And…they are SO clean, always licking off all the poison we squirt on their bodies. Almost I think that maybe God said, “Long Live the Roach!”

    (Ain’t I terrible?–grin!)
    LOVE and PEACE, Claudia

  17. “with oNe BloW of a flat hand

    the weird gentleness
    of someone who survived
    too long already” I love the entanglement of the story teller (your?) anxiety and the man who has lived so long who sees this as a simple matter, acting swiftly perhaps compassionately even in the midst of killing…he was kind to the story teller.

  18. I love the way you bring everyday life in the moment into your work, Claudia– it grounds the statement of your poem, both its narrative arc and emotional pulse, in intimacy with the reader– you and I happen this week to have the pinning of medals on a breast in our poems! xj http://parolavivace.blogspot.com

  19. Really like this line: wind blows- Blows– BLOWS—
    a line that moves just like the wind!
    This is a terrific poem in both senses of the word–terror and great.
    I wrote a true short story awhile back–it was published, and a number of people told me that when they saw “cockroach” in the first paragraph, they stopped reading!

  20. Nothing on this planet creepier than roaches, and the way you use them here lives up to their nasty reputation completely–so many blights and fears, carried so far, and all you can do is blot them out with a tired hand, knowing there’s another batch tomorrow. A little darker than your usual, Claudia–so you know I really *really* liked it.

  21. I, like the man who lived too long, have lived with them so long that they have become like the one in Wall-E. Not pets, but constants in the humidity of the Southern US.

    Your use of them here is of roaches at their creepiest, but I appreciate the nonchalance of the man who has lived so long (like me) that he becomes as brave as Le Petit Tailleur – sept d’un coup!

  22. oh my, that ending is killer, especially after that little nightmare journey you took us on–great visual of fear and anxiety, the way they can take over our minds.

  23. only you can write a poem about roaches that doesn’t freak me out… aren’t they little buggers? luckily I don’t have to deal with roaches where I stay… phew… enjoyed this much

  24. I wonder if you have really been in Sydney. I assume so. It is one of my favorite cities in the whole world. I would travel there again in a heartbeat. Don’t remember roaches there, but did WALK across the Harbour Bridge, and, of course, spent much time admiring the Opera House.

  25. love it~ and concur with the others, ending brings it home.
    also loved this:
    hit my elbow
    on the iron heater in the bathroom,
    crying all the way to work– lap
    wet, the endless highway stretched

    thanks for sharing!

  26. hey claudia,

    the weird gentleness
    of someone who survived
    too long already

    such a strong impression of an idea to close out with…

    brilliant images and connections thru out – curve the my imagination
    into a glipmse of a slice of your spaces…

    a rich and rewarding read 😀

  27. Yeah, I don’t really like roaches. I remember some giant ones at my grandma’s old house in Texas.

    These lines really resonated with me:
    “the endless highway stretched
    like a band with sun and moon pinned to it,
    medals to a soldier’s breast”

    Great write.

  28. “medals to a soldier’s breast
    but only
    after death– i
    HYperVentiLate, stretch”
    I LOVE the way you play with capitals and lowercase and I really love how organic your rhyming is, its like its meant to be.

  29. Love the last line, but I have a feeling that’s not what your poem was about at all. It felt nightmarish, maybe feverish, and very sad.

    Besides, we can never kill them all. Be good to get rid of the flying ones, though.

  30. There is such tenderness in your imagery at times, it leaves me stunned! This is a brooding piece, I think the word brooding suits it, in a great way, something not quite purdy beneath! As always – this is wonderful work, always enjoy reading you 🙂

  31. Isn’t it interesting how the banging of an elbow can be the beginning of one’s unravelling?

    I love this, especially how you let it hang:
    “that tells me that the world’s
    not round nor anything i ever …”

    “deep holes, dark eyes” … A dangerously fascinating combination.

    “the weird gentleness
    of someone who survived
    too long already” … A perfect ending.

  32. Oh, this is hilarious, Claudia. I hate roaches, too… especially the flying kind.

  33. heh, loved that last stanza claudia… sometimes i feel like that old man, surviving too long, sometimes i feel like that roach. well penned my friend

  34. Full travel day ~ captures the city as a tourist ~ starts with something lowly but we all can relate to ~ that awarkars moment where we ate indeed faced with a flash quick decision ~~ splat!

  35. Great poem, Claudia. As usually, you make artful work of the spacing between thoughts to leave the sound lingering in the reader’s ears. Your descriptions of places always amaze me as well, how you can capture a slice of the spirit of so many places.

  36. I loved how this went all over your memory and I was happy to tag along. Anyone who can craft a poem from that title, is my kind of writer! Kudos, and get some bug spray, pronto!

  37. You manage, in many of your poems, the transition from the everyday and mundane – and how much more mundane can you get than the cockroach – to a philosophical turn that is almost profound – here, a life already lived too long. And the beauty is that the progression from the ordinary to the extraordinary is so natural, that one never realizes, until the end of the journey, that one has reached illumination.

  38. Loved that ending, Claudia..the old man who survived too long…as the roach does and will long after we are gone. Reminds me of the albino roach I spied years ago…the horror seeing it and the pity of its conceived outcast plight. I let it go…Big eww factor in your poem, but most inciteful and original.

  39. OOOO I wish I could say more, but besides the clever presentation, your piece brought back some spledid memories. I personally do not care much for the cockroach, but I see it’s part in your poem. A great contrast to the backdrop you present.

  40. … how do you deal with “the weird gentleness” of that someone who survived too long ago? Is it a healing power … Is it the final blow? OMG …

  41. ah yes, the flying roach… when were you last in Sydney Claudia? Next time you are over, you must make the trek to Brisbane!

  42. Claudia, this ending following the tension building of the poem made me sit back in my chair and catch my breath as though the air was knocked out of me. The pace, word choices and progression are fantastic.

  43. Well written, fun and entertaining, and i liked the way you used capital letters to force the reader to hyperventilate haha.

    On the subject on the other hand, I spend my time in my flat trying to save cockroaches from my flatmates and their two cats. I don’t like them much, but don’t think they deserve to be killed. Mosquitoes on the other hand…

  44. Such an interesting poem, Claudia. I could see you on a stage performing this scene so beautifully and dramatically. 🙂

  45. No mercy on those roaches, Claudia! Especially those that can fly! 😀

    Awesome urban piece. Seems to a metaphor on how one grows to know how to deal with unexpected unpleasant and uninvited things, no malice even in that act at the end there. Enjoyed this.

  46. It’s the immediacy.. the disjointed, emotional fracture to begin, that yet ends with a reflective unity.

    Did I feel that bump to your elbow.. 🙂

  47. Oh Claudia…I’m with you! I hate them, too….creepy creatures, and one flew into my wide open mouth once (longggg ago) and I still can remember the taste. Ugh.

    Very good poem, and the ending is lovely…you have a savior in that old man.


    I read a little of the comments above, and I also applaud your bringing together these disjointed ‘things’ into a fine weave.

    Lady Nyo

  48. a little uncomfortable, which is neat. i felt the bugs scuttling over me in this, as i moved from location to location. the old man was unsettling. and the title was never far away as i crawled through this piece.

  49. Sounds like a bad day, in an awesome place I would love to visit. This poem sums up my week. smiles

  50. In the rain forest of Trinidad, the roaches are 4 inches long and FLY! Truly creepy. Makes me grands laugh when I freak out over them but there you have it. I loved this, especially the end.

  51. I love the way you weave your thoughts Claudia. Roaches are all over, everywhere and though earlier I would not have any qualms about crushing one, theses days I hesitate to do that. After all god’s creature no matter how creepy and disgusting!!!