Poem : Cockroach – Underbelly

I thought I’d get with the times and post something that isn’t several years old. So, here’s my most recent poem, begun on January 30, 2019 and finished on February 3, 2019. (I can’t believe it’s been more than three months already!)

Cockroach – Underbelly

ì just killed a cóckroach
in a minute and a half.
one–two–three–four
(i could’ve but i did not stop);
five–six–seven–eight
(phutphutphutphut) –
and, suddenly, it was too late:
the roach lay writhing on the ground,
its legs were smashed – beyond escape.

i turned my head and saw myself
inside the mirror on the door
(headphones arched over a crumpled face);
i looked at me and returned to the floor.

old memories all flew in different ways
like a flock of birds unperched:
the stepped-on ant again stepped on,
the mice i saw beat by the broom,
the spider and the spider-web – both gone.

…i wish now i had chosen to
brush off the cockroach like it brushed my foot.

…and was i right? or was i wrong?
(a cockroach-court would sentence me i’m sure);
but i would ask for leniency
and time and charity
to regret my choice – and then create
a life-and-death-philosophy.

Afterword:

I think this “piece of writing” can be contrasted nicely with this piece of writing. The linked-to piece fits much more nicely into most people’s idea (I include myself) of poetry. Like I say in the introduction to that poem, it possesses several qualities one usually associates with poetry, especially lyric poetry. Specifically, it possesses both rhythm and rhymes – which, together, impart a euphony, as it were, to the poem. As my recitation (I hope) makes clear, these qualities combine to make the poem an incantatory creation.

Now, here below, is a piece of writing. Is it poetry, prose, poetic, lyrical, prosaic, euphonic, musical?

“I just killed a cockroach in a minute and a half. One–two–three–four (I could’ve but I did not stop); five–six–seven–eight (phutphutphutphut) – and, suddenly, it was too late: the roach lay writhing on the ground, its legs were smashed – beyond escape. I turned my head and saw myself inside the mirror on the door (headphones arched over a crumpled face); I looked at me and returned to the floor. Old memories all flew in different ways
like a flock of birds unperched: the stepped-on ant again stepped on, the mice I saw beat by the broom, the spider and the spider-web – both gone. …I wish now I had chosen to
brush off the cockroach like it brushed my foot. …And was I right? or was I wrong?
(A cockroach-court would sentence me I’m sure); but I would ask for leniency
and time and charity to regret my choice – and then create a life-and-death-philosophy.”

You will have noticed that the paragraph you just read was the poem, presented differently. Now think: what if you had seen the paragraph first? How would you have read it? My guess is that you would have read it in a monotone – that is to say, you would have read the words rather than concerned yourself with the lift and fall (unstress and stress) of the syllables that make up the words. So – what is the piece of writing? A poem? Or just prose chopped up?

I’d argue that it would be “just prose chopped up” were it not for the fact that the “point of chop”, (technically, enjambment), has been deliberately chosen to give the prose a certain sinuous (sinusoidal?) quality; a certain oscillatory motion. It is these “points” that signal to the reader (or reciter) the pace of the prose; or, in other words, the poem’s rhythm. And it this rhythm that distinguishes poetry from prose, that takes the even ground of prose and makes of it the gently undulating lea of poetry.

Anyway, here’s a recitation. It may elucidate some of what I’ve said.

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