Cockroach

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Prison floor is trod
all day long by the same boots 
on different feet.

Every man has fingers pointed at him 
so he points fingers at others, 
the guilty are spaced
out until they are wide open meadows.

All of them are axes and empty gloves,
criteria and recoveries, 
while the cockroach plays dead in the corner.

Anything that can be touched is baseless,
endless maneuvers
to an old army field problem.

What is next lies 
just around the corner
but remains untouchable.

The world outside is a roaring lion,
problems come right over the wire,
a train engine stamps by.

The locomotive leaves but will return later,
shake the bunks,
I will see it when it returns—feel it—
no matter how long it takes.

I grow comfortable here, 
I wince,
there is a fishhook in my face,
a snarl grows deep inside but does not vomit out.

I am tempered with good moderation while
the guards observe me troop the line,
becoming sentry against myself.

I push against walls that look
to be paths to 
breakfast, work, or reconciliation,
they sprout with laughter.

Some of the men spend their 
time assembling ladders,
they add rungs while the security officer laughs, 
points with fat fingers.

I sit in the corner at a rusted table
while they cry: hang them!
The people ask: who will be the next governor?
And the next governor says: have no fear!
They will remain behind bars forever!

They change our names to the names of products,
they make our souls and shadows the same things,
when we bleed: it is oil,
we are gears doing the work of gears.

We are masters at studying 
and novices in application,
we are doctorates in window shopping.

On balmy days herr commandant

brings ice in buckets,
a German man serving life for murder.

Some days the laughs are mulish and reckless,
a soft hemorrhaging of voices
through feckless throats.

I am Jebel Musa 
overlooking the strait of Gibraltar
to a land I shall never see.

The cockroach is itself in the corner,
hiding from the eyes of everyone,
absolutely still.

Rains float the Mississippi, shame is on the sidewalks,
someone will visit here and track it home 
where it will dissolve.

Several times a day I surface for air,
then resubmerge where it is me with the fish 
and their gills.

I push laundry carts,
the work is not terrible,
I fold garments and underwear,
prisoners wear clothes.

Alone in solitary confinement
you discover what you never knew about yourself,
every prisoner is strong until he is alone.

Cockroach in the corner,
afraid because it 
cannot stop inevitability.

Today the rain was cold
when it fell from granite clouds,
I wore my soaked sweatshirt all morning
because it felt…about right.

Years pass like nothing, 
until you think about them,
then they are fermatas in forte. 

The cockroach wears the conductor’s clothes,
sweat stains its face,

hair masks its staring eyes.

My blanket does not cover my feet,

I have forgotten the sound of silence,
we lock-in when instructed,
we are taught patience with many tools.

Some men laugh with the guards,
how can the man in the cage and the man
who put him there be the same?

Lessons are quiet here,
the cockroach in the corner moves
when it thinks no one is watching,
then it goes still.

Tourists ask questions 
that make lives into syllables:

by: Roman Newell

Graphic Composition:
by: Darlene Carroll

Graphic work can not be accomplished without the incredible resources made available to this Author and his team.
THANK YOU to the following artists for the gift of their artistry and generosity in sharing their beautiful artwork, photography, and fonts.

Background Imagery:
o. Maret Hosemann — Pixabay
o. Denis Doukhan — Pixabay


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