St. Roach Poem by Muriel Rukeyser

St. Roach

Rating: 3.2

For that I never knew you, I only learned to dread you,
for that I never touched you, they told me you are filth,
they showed me by every action to despise your kind;
for that I saw my people making war on you,
I could not tell you apart, one from another,
for that in childhood I lived in places clear of you,
for that all the people I knew met you by
crushing you, stamping you to death, they poured boiling
water on you, they flushed you down,
for that I could not tell one from another
only that you were dark, fast on your feet, and slender.
Not like me.
For that I did not know your poems
And that I do not know any of your sayings
And that I cannot speak or read your language
And that I do not sing your songs
And that I do not teach our children
to eat your food
or know your poems
or sing your songs
But that we say you are filthing our food
But that we know you not at all.

Yesterday I looked at one of you for the first time.
You were lighter that the others in color, that was
neither good nor bad.
I was really looking for the first time.
You seemed troubled and witty.

Today I touched one of you for the first time.
You were startled, you ran, you fled away
Fast as a dancer, light, strange, and lovely to the touch.
I reach, I touch, I begin to know you.

Carolynn Shaw 07 November 2007

Muriel, How sad, how shameful we are. Cruel in our habits and traditions. You shame me, you shame us - no, you show us our shame and allow us to breathe. Thank you for this poem. Respectfully, Carolynn

6 6 Reply
John Richter 11 February 2016

can anyone interpret this please?

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Wolfgang Steinmann 12 January 2015

At first I thought: A poem about roaches? But is it really? How wonderful it describes our prejudices! Jew=Roach? , Negro=Roach? - we have certainly treated them as such. This poem should be read by anyone who thinks he is better than others!

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John Richter 12 January 2015

Not altogether certain she is speaking of cockroaches. Muriel lived through both world wars and the liberation of Israel as a Jewish woman. Could her affectionate poem be directed toward those war mongers? Art is art in any way through - if nothing more it gives us the romanticism of subjection.

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Stephen W 12 January 2013

I think it's just a bit silly.

4 4 Reply
Stephen W 20 September 2015

Dunno why I wrote this 2 years ago. Must have been in a funny mood.

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Juan Olivarez 11 January 2012

Tell me who you associate with, and I will know you. What a dirty woman you must have been Muriel. Creepy poem too advocating Sainthood for a roach, disgusting.

3 11 Reply
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