The Cockroach by Kevin Halligan
I watched a giant cockroach start to pace,
At first he seemed quite satisfied to trace
A path between the wainscot and the door,
But soon he turned to jog in crooked rings,
Circling the rusty table leg and back,
And flipping right over to scratch his wings -
As if a victim of a mild attack
Of restlessness that worsened 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 though I recognised myself.
"Comment on the particular presentation and observations of the narrator."
The narrator is initially a blank narrator as he focuses purely on the events, which consists of the cockroach moving across a room. As the poem progresses, the narrator draws away from purely the event and comments on the "restlessness" and uncertainty that this insect eventually portrays. This change is observation coupled with the presentation of the cockroach as the main focus, foreshadows what is to come in the poem.
Many a poem's focus, mainly reserved for human attention, but in this poem, the cockroach, a dirty, repulsive insect takes the place as the main focus and this could foreshadow the author's projection of himself as the cockroach. This projection, defining empathy, is further reinforced by the continuous use and prevalence of "I" in the last few lines. The "I" present in this poem initially concerning a cockroach indicates that the poet is reminiscing about his life and choices.
The rhyme scheme is simple as the narrator describes his observation but changes when the narrator is reminiscing and asking rhetorical questions until the rhyme scheme is shattered by the last line. "Except I thought I recognised myself", this line shows the complex content held by the change in feeling and thought pattern of the narrator. This confusion is in turn felt by the reader as the gravity of the poet's self projection is grasped by the reader.
The reader initially assigns a repulsive idea when reading the title but the narrator's empathetic presentation of the cockroach and eventual meditative and nostalgic tendencies are present, showing the self-reflection in the closing lines, which are ironic in that it goes against what the reader expects.
This poem links very nicely in its narrator's presentation to that of the The Hunting Snake by Judith Wright, in which both poems present their main focus as natural personas, yet the underlying, extended metaphors differ.