I watched a giant cockroach start to pace,
Skirting a ball of dust that rode the floor.
At first he seemed quite satisfied to trace
A path between the wainscot and the door,
But soon he started to jog in crooked rings,
Circling the dusty table leg and back,
And flipping right over to scratch his wings-
As if the victim of a mild attack
Of restlessness that worsens over time.
After a while, he climbed an open shelf
And stopped. He looked uncertain where to go.
Was this due payment for some vicious crime
A former life had led to? I don't know,
Except i thought i recognised myself.
Kevin Halligan was born in Toronto, Canada in 1964 He regards himself as an Anglophile and has spent long periods living in England, but has also travelled in Asia, where this poem was written. His collection “Blossom Street” is based on his travels and he often observes alien counties with detailed fascination. In this poem he apparently focuses an intense concentration on an insect, but in a powerful twist of focus the whole poem flips back to reveal that the poet himself is actually the subject. Halligan hones his poems obsessively. He is able to use a variety of forms with great control, and deceptive ease. This seems at first quite a simple poem but it is tightly constructed with great skill.
Some points for classroom discussion
Consider the tone of voice of the narrator and what effect this produces on the reader.
Judith Wright ‘Hunting Snake’.
The Cockroach by Kevin Halligan
'The Cockroach' by Kevin Halligan is a poem about reflection on life through watching the movement of a cockroach. Through the use of structure, detailed description of cockroach as an extended metaphor of the persona, the theme of confusion and realization of life is well conveyed. Halligan describes a frantic movement of the cockroach throughout the poem. The title foreshadows and reveals that the poem is about a small and trifle insect- a...