by C. L. Bledsoe

When I was a boy, I heard roaches sing.
It only happened at night, after the divorce.
Mom went back to St. Louis and Dad was drunk.
Everyday I came in from the rice fields,
                too sweaty to sleep but too tired not to,
                pressed my cheek to the wall beside the bed
                because it was cool,
and they were in there, singing.

This was different from in the fields. I’d heard mosquitoes,
but never roaches, sing. I listened and forgot
                the water moccasins that stroked my leg like fingers
                as they swam past, the shovel that dribbled mud down my back
                like a heavy breeze, the dull gray of levies
                that stretched out before me that day
                and would the next,
                the weight of my father’s tired muscles
                as we dragged him from his truck to bed,
                the quiet of the house since Mom was gone,
I forgot it all, and listened to them sing.

In the mornings, I woke, staggered
                into the dusty light of my father’s truck
                and tucked the memory of my nights away,
                under the hard slap of the sun on my back,
                and the drunken jokes of farmers that didn’t make any sense.
I sank into the mud of those fields
                and into myself, waiting

                until night came,
                when I would crawl into bed,
                press my face against the wall
                and listen.

C. L. Bledsoe is an MFA candidate at the University of Arkansas. He has poems forthcoming in Nimrod and 2River.