Readings in Contemporary Poetry

Maxine Kumin


Every cockroach is beautiful to its mother.
-Neapolitan saying

Wherever cities are
she persists, a spurned lover.
Nowhere more familiar
is Black Flag, her killer:
the dead-of-night march
from Hell's Kitchen kitchens 
from East Village cupboards 
from dark holes in floorboards 
to and from middens, 
their mutual church.

And yet, The Little Flower's 
deputy proclaimed 
"She rises hand in hand 
with mankind on the long 
long climb from savagery 
to civilization."

At the eleventh hour 
after the final hark ye, hark 
after we all go under 
she alone will lurk 
hatching droplets of babies 
to feed on the charred remains 
of our apocalyptic blunder.

copyright 2003