Cockroach Poem – Poem (obviously)

Cockroach Poem

I am not afraid of obvious dangers; 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 ugliness,
lurking in lightless places, surviving 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. Radiation studies may negate
survival as what separates you and I, but it doesn’t matter.
I imagine you everywhere dark and unacceptable,
a raisin shell skittering over towels and spoons, like a haunt
across a grave, dragging your dark armor of indifference.


Shot Dog – Poem

Shot Dog

Before the 187th Airborne Regiment dropped down
at Sunchon without incident and took the town, his division

was ordered to Nevada, where atomic bombs glittered
over the desert. Six miles out from ground zero, they dug trenches

and camped for days. When Shot Dog went off at 1,400 feet
and the soldiers curved themselves against the trench

like babies in a womb and covered their eyes, he saw the bones
of his hands through his flesh and the flash of light. When static

from the control room ordered them to stand and witness
the cloud, the heat waved across the desert and knocked him

on his back, then knocked him forward on his stomach
after he stood up again as the air was sucked back in.

His helmet and one army boot were gone; the roily spectrum
of the mushroom spread above him, not black like a thundercloud

but churning with light, red and red and orange and blue
like colored water inked across the sky. He tried not to think

it was, but it was beautiful. Before they got their orders to march out
for maneuvers, an officer strapped a film badge to his chest to test

the levels of exposure on his skin, and then he boarded a truck
filled with soldiers. As they neared the heart of the explosion,

he saw sand burned to glass, Sherman tanks submerged into earth,
and structures of steel and concrete vaporized into jagged remains.

But the dogs were still alive. Half-burned, blinded, skin and hind-
quarters missing, the bars of their cages bent and smoking

against their bones, lying on their sides, unmoving, not even the eyes,
except for their tremors of breath. When he saw the dogs he thought:

of course. Of course there would be dogs, he accepted this as readily
as he accepted his own dog-march into war, and yet, he stopped.

As he reached out and laid his hands down against their heated flesh,
the breath of the dogs slowed in expectation of release, but the veterinarian
in the control room with his euthanistic needle would wait another day
for the radiation levels to die down before he did his work. Most of the dogs

would be dead soon anyway, dead from the toxins, dead from the burns,
but animal need is futureless, immediate, inapplicable to science or war.

As he stood up and moved forward to follow his ordered path
across the drop zone, the pathetic wail of dogs rose up behind him,

desperate, incredulous, insistent that the broken bond of skin against skin
be unforgotten, and by the time he made it out to the perimeter where an officer

waved a Geiger counter over his fatigues and professed him clean,
he had come to hate those dogs, and he continued to hate them

as he showered off in the makeshift latrines of Desert Rock, and he hated them
while he vomited for three days after the explosion, and he hated them

while his nose and gums continued to bleed for months after that,
and he hated them while he shipped out for Korea, and he heard

the wail of dogs in the rushes of rain while he lay in the rice fields,
and he heard the wail of dogs in the mournful marches of civilians

on dirt roads, in the windblast of a cargo door opening over Munson-ni,
in the graze of a bullet against his ear before it pierced the helmet

of another soldier, and as the fallout from Shot Dog continued its journey
eastward over North America on drifts of wind, and Iodine-131 rained down

on farmlands from the thunderclouds for months after the blast, he learned
that in the absence of mercy, he would always hear the wailing of dogs.

Unnatural – Poem


You say I should get out more, that I
should admire nature, that I should swim
in its decorous wisdom. You say humanity

is the stupidest of creatures, and must repair
this umbilical snip from its own creation.
But what am I to admire? Surely not

the sun, rising and setting its work
each day without question, until it buries
itself against its own darkness. Not

the blinking packs of birds blotting
the sky each simple year, or the hurricane
which gripped an entire city with its bluster,

then wandered off and squandered its power
over an empty stretch of marsh. Not
my dog, who’ll do anything for food,

or my cat and her haughty obsessions,
or the silver maple in my backyard
which has yet to figure out it’s January.

The queen’s wreath in the garden
is greedy, it does not know when to stop,
and the passion vine is vulgar, whores all summer

to the bees that die knowingly in its folds.
And what about the fish you caught last season,
with a rusty hook already lodged

in his opalescent jaw? You freed it from your line
then threw it back, and it glimmered away,
ignorant of its own recurrent escape.