LA CUCARACHA

 

pancho-villa

“La Cucaracha,” crawls out

the mouth of the old poet sleeping

on his back in the rest home

bed. “The cockroach,” I say,

and he smiles, eyes closed,

doesn’t lift his head, then drifts

off again to what’s left

of his revolution, Irish or

Mexican—this peasant poet

indulges neither weed nor whiskey

these days. He naps and suffers

no hangovers, no critics,

no fools. The beauty of his world,

this purgatory of clean linens

and polished floors, is in the comfort

of the drugs that walk him through

that pecan orchard years ago,

a leggy-blonde artist-activist on his arm—

when the sound of bees stopped them

to listen. What was her name?

The beauty who left him cracking-up,

breaking down in the barrow pit

mud after she refused to open

her checkbook, go along with his scheme

to live off the land and strike it rich

mining gold and art in Alaska. The dream,

rerun of that mistake, furrows his brow,

twitches his face, but pales against

the nightmare of waking, of sitting

in his chair and staring at TV or

the series of breathing cadavers

stashed like wrinkled mannequins

behind the curtain in his room—where

shuffling nurses in starched uniforms

stop to snap him into his triple-X

bib that catches everything

but the words he can’t chew or spit.

Nothing fits his mouth anymore.

La cucaracha, la cucaracha,

why does he sing, what does he know?

La cucaracha, la cucaracha, scuttles

out his ear and under the pillow.

 

—for Ed Lahey

 

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