They saw it at K Mart,
with Mohammed Ali, fist clenched,
imprinted on the glossy package,
promising to eliminate their cockroaches
without harmful sprays or messy squashings.
They peeled the polythene wrapper
and examined the contents gingerly:
a small black cardboard box,
openings funnelling inward on both sides,
met their curious eyes. Inside,
strips of adhesive ran parallel
breadth-wise; in between
a dark, odious substance
emitted what they presumed
was the insect-attracting odour.
Bold lettering in red
added the advice
"Keep out of reach of children."
There were two traps to a carton.
They placed one atop the kitchen cupboards,
the other in a corner
next to the air freshener
on the bathroom shelf.
A few days later they spied
two roaches blockaded in the box,
silently writhing hour after hour in toil.
Then, all legs broken,
they lay still.
Only their antennas flickered
indicating that they lived.
At last, all motion ceased, and,
completely sealed in glue, they perished.
Soon the trap began to fill.
Again and again
they witnessed the insects' passion
played to its inexorable conclusion.
Sometimes a roach would dodge a layer
only to be stuck in another.
One, preferring freedom to feet,
even nibbled into a fastened limb
until nearly free. Just then,
he lost his nerve, and in panic
lurched mandible down to his doom.
In winter, out of frosted windows they would watch
multicolored bugs of steel whining their plight
as their helpless wheels spun in the slippery ice.
Even through tightly throttled windows,
they could hear the screams in the wee hours of the morning.
pilgrims like them
came from the old country—
faces scrubbed clean,
and such innocence in their eyes--
attracted by the sweet scent
of opportunity, success, and money.
Initially they all intended to return
but were eventually tied down
by the relentless logic of the situation.
Finally, most settled down, reconciled
to the reality of their divided existence.
(Yet, why was there always
a lingering sense of regret or guilt?)
At midnight they woke up sweating;
everywhere the same neurosis:
in suburban houses, air-tight and clammy,
racked, flailing bodies,
locked in layers of adhesive prosperity,
shrieking, squirming, silently--
slowly expiring like cockroaches.
|Copyright © 2005 - Makarand Paranjape|