War on Roaches

Kyi May Kaung

Declared.

First a roach killer in a spray

to set down boundaries in this

un-roach-proof house with a gaping lower right

corner.

Set up the four cuts

cut support cut food cut water cut communications

still see stray guerilla roaches, though all food including edible trash

carefully removed or wrapped

in plastic.

So far have caught five big roaches, black and brown and hairy

with big legs, with my bare hands

declare “I will kill you,” and dispatch, by pinching off their heads

my hand encased in half a kitchen towel.

This morning awoke

to open the blinds on the window to the back yard

site of my war on squirrels to find

a roach hidden in the tin for guava jelly that I use as a cache pot for

my blotched orchid in intensive care.

Roaches, who will survive after nuclear warfare.

Burmese rep from Myanmar challenged by news of N. Korean vessel taking missiles to Rangoon, while he was at ASEAN meeting in Washington DC. Rep said Burmese being picked on unfairly. Still, N. Korean ship stopped near Rangoon, dead stop, then

reversed tracks and returned home. Got the message.

This roach ran – first behind the plate draining stand, stain less steel

on counter just beyond where, my right arm with the hurting muscles or maybe dislocated socket or arthritic joint, just cannot reach. It clicks simultaneously with the pulled muscle. I mark where he is. Can’t tell though may be a she. Never learned to differentiate, gender in roaches.

Youngest child saying, “Mom, you are full of anger, do you know that?”

As Scallion Shoot says, to her children, “Either be traditional or modern, but

you can’t have it both ways as a mix. It’s a package deal, Burmese or American.”

My children only understand either/or and drive me crazy with their black and white.

I go to turn on the washing machine with a medium load, including clothes recycled from

my late Aunt Anouk.

The roach now is hiding, trying to be inconspicuous.

In the seam underneath the white kitchen cabinets and the dun beige formica back splash. I consider my arm extension weapon carefully.

It must be light, it must be lethal

quick strike, roaches are nothing if not fast and sly.

Cannot be the roll of kitchen towel, cannot be Candy’s fake bone that she does not care to chew, now she’s getting, human treats from me all the time, she’s even getting spoiled.

One second and I have the ideal weapon.

I press the roach lightly with the edge of my lightweight plastic cutting board which efficiently slices

off its head but the body is still wriggling.

I’m the human being with the bigger brain.

I have to win.

I wipe away the roach juices on the back splash and counter

with half a cheap kitchen towel, economizing.

For good measure, squeeze, all the vital juices out of the roach body

try wriggling now, you roach!

Dispose of the body now crushed in the trash can.

City will pick up the trash with a truck with robot arms that will tip the bin and empty the trash, into its own or accompanying truck bed. There!

I wash the cutting board carefully so no contamination of roaches remains.

I am the human being, I must win.

Is genocide like this?

Foreign Policy In Focus contributor Kyi May Kaung is a poet, an artist, and an analyst of Southeast Asian politics. Melissa Tuckey is the poetry editor for FPIF and a board member of Split This Rock.