New Orleans palmetto bug

Toi Derricotte

BPR 46 | 2019

“We…feel a kiss on our lips
Trembling there like a small insect.”
          —Arthur Rimbaud

1. False Gods

I’m terrified of the one
in my kitchen. It’s as long as my index finger,
& two thumbs wide—so big, so
alive with its bigness, that I can’t imagine
putting my foot on top & pressing—
anymore than I could imagine
pressing down
on a hummingbird or newborn kitten.
I’m screaming &
waving my hands, but it doesn’t move. Then, slow
& steady, it starts to walk toward me. I’m yelling,
“You dumb ass, you stupid mother fucker.” I’m so
big, so
powerful, I can’t believe
it won’t
obey me! “Ok,” I say, this time
with assurance, “You better not
go in my bedroom,” but it does the very thing
I told it not
to do, heads straight
down the hall, through my door & climbs up
on the heater
beside my bed. (Imagine
me trying to sleep & feeling
that slight tremble
on my lips!) I grab the heater
& carry it, carefully (I don’t want to hurt
it when it falls!), out the front door
to the porch, begging, “Please, go home
to your own people.” But it holds on,
as if it doesn’t want to leave.

Later, as I’m drifting off,
I hear the long soft clickings
of a chorus
outside my window & I wonder
if it brought back
a bunch of its friends
to serenade me to sleep.

2. Why the giant palmetto bugs in New Orleans run toward you when you are screaming at them to go away

They have a hard thing
on the top of their head that sticks out
like the bill of a baseball cap (but pointy),
so they can’t
look up; they
only see the ground & don’t know
you’re screaming & waving
your hands. They only see
your foot & they imagine
its cool shadow: what a good place
to hide, they say.