I’m The Exterminator

Guest Writers


I’m The Exterminator
by chris d’errico

Two inches from the sun & to keep diarrhea at bay
I drink my weight each day in bottled water—
my job is to snuff out the lesser species,
to survive
I eradicate vermin & collect the bill.

Driving home to wash the sweat & grease off,
launder my soiled uniform,
burrow into the night,
eat my dinner in front of the television
& pass out only to awake drop-kicked by the clock,
shower out my dream’s residuals
& hit the road to control,
eliminate,
kill,
clean up,
basements, bathrooms, kitchens, attics—
chatting, listening to seniors & section 8’s,
the rich wax about what happened
to the world & why me, why me
why me.

That’s what the old Born Again woman said
from the den of her ranch house in Spanish Trails
as I knelt
on her kitchen floor,
not from any divinity or sick ritual
but, to spray for cockroaches under her sink
& to put a little rat poison behind her stove—

there’s murder in the suburbs, you know,
paradise in the projects,
you have to look beyond
this infestation,
this existence,
to survive,
to keep your wings
or to get them
(finally, heaven sent)
in the end.

11 thoughts on “I’m The Exterminator

  1. Well, there’s structure and there’s narrative structure. I agree that narrative can kill a poetic attempt faster than bug poison kills a cockroach. But a non-narrative approach is nothing new. Its called lyric poetry. But in skilled hands, narrative can be an effective approach to poetry. James Tate and Raymond Carver are two poets that come to mind immediately. At the same time, most of the poetry I read, from the last hundred years or so, builds on poetic structures that have nothing to do with narrative. If there’s going to be another “next big poet,” that individual will more likely than not write in a non-narrative fashion. Its practically a tradition.

  2. That’s me looking in the wrong corner against the wall. I think the color here on my side is eggshell but it could be ecru. The lighting is bad so it is hard to tell. Seems like a gloomy cupboard sometimes.

  3. i think i’ve driven these commentators against the wall. my point is simply that i hate narrative and my recent realisation is that Dylan’s work is abstract and collage-like. its made me think that the reason i’ve been so absorbed in Dylan’s work is that he has no narrative structure. and therefore his songs force my brain to try and find a structure.he has made me make a creative act.which is why i suddenly focused on this poem. narrative is just so deadening. the next big poet will dump narrative and hopefully fill in the pie with scrumptious bits. long live taste and slurpy discretion…

  4. Interesting dialogue going on in the comments here, but it only makes me want to write a completely new form of meaningless narrative that rhymes. But thats probably been done before. Frankly, I’m not interested in what poetry shouldn’t do, only in what it can potentially do with a creative application of both new and established poetic devices. But this poem? Its okay. It uses an over-abundance of attitude to say something reasonably interesting from a distinctive point of view. But “tyranny of the narrative” – I really don’t see any narrative in the structure of this poem. Dylan? He’s a song-writer who made great use of rhyme. And, finally, “a great poem”? I don’t think so.

  5. D. A. Miller’s narratological theories include reference to a “tyranny of the narrative” in the “Narrative and Its Discontents” (1981). His literary theory hinges on an argument involving this supposed tyranny.
    I couldn’t find a good abstract of Miller’s book, but it is referenced here in this textbook on the Victorian novel. (on page 62)
    http://books.google.com/books?id=DiyR2F98HmsC&printsec=frontcover

    My favorite verse in this poem brings the first person to his knees as if in prayer to kill. That caught me. Then at the end, the murderer is put through a metamorphosis and given wings as all repentant killers of the innocent may- becoming in the process truly re-birthed. Now if only heaven was an unguarded pantry and we all come back as karmic emissarial cockroaches!

  6. I like what Halifax said: “In the mean time, read stories you like and share stories that move you. The rest is posturing and hubris.”

    This line should be on the masthead of university literary journals everywhere. but it won’t because people are looking in the wrong corners obviously.

    First of all there is no Tyranny of the Narrative literary theory as Joe Cloyd mysteriously missed. i just made that up on the spot. and if you think there is any narrative in Bob’s Tarantula you are really dreaming. you missed my point that Bob’s energy comes from NOT having a narrative.

    nice to get some response from this though. because i think most of what we read now is all crap and all hooked into narrative. even the funky out there people pleasing poems. i think a poet like Gillian Prew really takes off from this and has driven a nail in a new exciting landscape; but shit, well i’m still looking.

  7. This is a great poem, but I think that it would be better if the first two and the last two lines were cut. Other than that there’s some real great imagery here… and I love the lines, “there’s murder in the suburbs, you know, / paradise in the projects,”… POWERFUL.

    Addressing JudeDillon’s comment: Of every kind of poetry, whether it be metaphsyical, experimental, lyrical, nonsensical, narrative, or whatever there are numerous examples of mediocrity. I think that one of the things that is essential that it says something and not hide too much behind ambiguity. I read Bob Dylan’s Tarantula almost 15 years ago, so I don’t remember it so well, but I remember liking it for a whole bunch or reasons, and one of them is because he was communicating something ABOUT THE WORLD he lives in, not because he was writing against the “tyranny of narrative” or any other literary theory. So to me, whatever style a poem employs, it pretty much falls flat if it doesn’t say anything.

  8. Personifying the act of telling a story and giving that creature henchmen like Rhyme, Meter, or possibly the dread executioner of transcendent self-expression Context. Tell me, with what sword will you kill the terrible tyrant? What band of unlikely heroes will rally to the cause, fraught with peril though it may be?

    You got me at the edge of my seat…

    Tyranny of the Narrative assumes that there are two different human minds. The kind that are enthralled by the moving bits of imagery and the master that generates it for unknown but surely nefarious purposes. It is simply a fallacy. No amount of exposure to education, jading, the denaturing processes of authority can make a person the master of the story and the objective manipulator of minds. It is a straw man.

    Those that try are certainly out there. You wait, the moral of The Golem will come into play soon enough. In the mean time, read stories you like and share stories that move you. The rest is posturing and hubris. Nemesis is coming.

    Or fume. Either way.

  9. i think what we have now and have had for some time is the ‘tyranny of the narrative’ which in some small way Bob Dylan tried to break. but narrative lingers on. and its like rhyming. Rhymes take you where you don’t want to go as the poet Tom Wayman said. And so does narrative. So let’s keep looking.

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