Roach Trap

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,

bellies flattened,

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.


Every year

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.


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  Copyright © 2005 - Makarand Paranjape