MY FIRST ROACH JOB
The roaches fell on us as soon
as we opened the door. Deer charged
down the hallway without a word,
just yelling through his respirator.
He had no words, just sounds that tried
to echo through the rooms. He yelled
the whole time, like a rookie cop,
like a Marine, like this was a war
against a million inch-long insects.
At first, I laughed until I saw
brown tiles on the floor moving
toward me. Then, I was silent,
trying to control my breathing,
spraying every empty inch of space
I found. When we were finished,
when we’d stripped and stomped our feet,
dozens of roaches falling from
our uniforms, Deer took me
out for fast food. He bit into
his burger, a wound of ketchup
dripping on the foil wrapper,
sweat beading on his drink cup.
He told me I’d done good, asked
if I was okay. He said he’ll spend
the rest of the week scrubbing his house,
said I’d find my own way to deal.
We can’t get ‘em all, his whispers
seemed to come from a rock hidden
deep in his gut, maybe his heart,
some hardened callus locked inside.
Just do your best and move on.
He told me about the roach mountain
he sees in his dreams. He climbs
but each step sucks him in deeper.
His respirator clogs, his boots
are ripped off, his hands holding gray air.
It only took a few roach jobs
before I saw the mountain too,
its peak engulfed by fog and blue stars.
We wake before the legs choke us.
Anthony Frame is an exterminator who lives in Toledo, OH with his wife and their spoiled cat. His poems have been published in or are forthcoming from Ekleksographia, La Fovea, Poetry Quarterly, Versal, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, Connecticut River Review and New Plains Review, among others. His first chapbook, Paper Guillotines, was recently released by Imaginary Friend Press. He is also co-editor of the online journal, Glass: A Journal of Poetry. You can find out more at http://www.anthony-frame.com.