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While Sweeping

by Kat Patterson |
While sweeping popcorn
I warm to thoughts of last night’s gathering:
good soup and wine,
laughter through the movie,
and all the dishes done.

Normally my broom fetches dog hair,
rarely popcorn or other party leavings.
Sometimes it’s a dead roach I sweep,
Not a welcome guest, but still
it piques my thoughts.

We don’t call them pretty,
no colorful wings, no intricate design.
Instead—frightening, disgusting things,
crawling ceilings, floors and walls.
Hard, dark bodies and mechanical joints
moving cautiously, silently or
escaping quickly with scurrying sounds.

They use vomit to soften their food.
How efficient.
Their heart pumps blood,
not in veins or arteries but in waves
inside the body cavity.
How alien.

Yet their success commands respect.
Their longevity on earth unrivaled,
surefooted on land, flying in air or
flattening through tight spaces,
they survive.

Roaches are not vectors;
like ants they clean the mess we leave behind,
In forests they promote decay,
with worms they create soil—dirt—a basic
for our life, our agriculture.

Their love making takes time—over thirty minutes per act.
Capsules for eggs grow on their tails,
one for each year on their calendar.
After shedding the exoskeleton
roaches are, for a time,
snow white.

If we kill them all
what ecological niches will be left vacant?
Might demons come to fill the gaps?

Would they have liked this popcorn I sweep today?
Probably more with butter or caramel coating.
I leave a kernel in the corner.

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