the beginning of the end of the world

cockroach population possibly declining 

—NEWS REPORT 


maybe the morning the roaches 

walked into the kitchen 

bold with they bad selves 

marching up out of the drains 

not like soldiers      like priests 

grim and patient in the sink 

and when we ran the water 

trying to drown them as if they were 

soldiers      they seemed to bow their 

sad heads      for us not at us 

and march single file away 


maybe then      the morning we rose 

from our beds as always 

listening for the bang of the end 

of the world      maybe then 

when we heard only the tiny tapping 

and saw them dark and prayerful 

in the kitchen      maybe then 

when we watched them turn from us 

faithless at last 

and walk in a long line away


by Lucille Clifton, included in Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry