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Incident of the Roach, November 7, 2020

I am walking into the dining room with my notebook and the new copy of The New Yorker with the lead article about the newly declared former president's future in the criminal courts, when a large brown roach climbs up the French doors so I fold The New Yorker and give the roach three hard swats, enough, I think, to kill it, but as I bend down it gets up and runs under my shoe. The shoe is far more fatal than The New Yorker and I fetch a paper towel and wipe up the remains and drop them in the kitchen waste bin.

I can't resist the metaphor about the roach and the president's loss of the election. He insists he has won, but the observers have not been observant, and he has observed that he won, much the way the roach seemed immune to the pounding of The New Yorker. But reality hits when the shoe descends.


Who is that solemn young woman
in our dining-room portrait, her body
revealed as a chrysalis about to change
into a creature that will fly?
She is solemn not because she is afraid
but because she intends to become something
other than what the world thinks she is.

I had bought a bouquet of irises
and set the vase before the painting.
They might not open at all, she warned me,
but five days later they are all open,
deep blue and vivid yellow and green.

She had to change. She didn't do it
out of selfishness or anger. She opened
as surely as the irises did, only to reveal
a creature that nobody could predict,
that she became because like the iris
she had to let go what was within her,
and become the winged creature
she was meant to be.

Michael Berryhill is a journalist and poet who lives in Houston with his wife, the painter Lynn Randolph.