Christopher Morley Pens a Paean to a Cockroach

Christopher Morley

The essayist and novelist Christopher Morley (1890-1957) was one of Don Marquis’ dearest friends. As a young writer Morley was an unabashed fan of Don’s breezy, brilliant humor, and Morley looked to him as a mentor. They became frequent lunch companions (the Three Hours for Lunch Club), fellow collaborators (“Pandora Lifts the Lid,” 1924) and lifelong boosters of each other’s works.

It’s no surprise that Morley would dedicate a poem to Marquis, but the subject matter makes the poem copied here a special treat. It first appeared in Morley’s Bowling Green column in the New York Evening Post and was reprinted in his 1920 book of light poetry, “Hide and Seek.” Enjoy.

By Christopher Morley
From “Hide and Seek,” 1920

Dedicated to Don Marquis

Scuttle, scuttle, little roach —
How you run when I approach:
Up above the pantry shelf,
Hastening to secrete yourself.

Most adventurous of vermin,
How I wish I could determine
How you spend your hours of ease,
Perhaps reclining on the cheese.

Cook has gone, and all is dark —
Then the kitchen is your park:
In the garbage heap that she leaves
Do you browse among the tea leaves?

How delightful to suspect
All the places you have trekked:
Does your long antenna whisk its
Gentle tip across the biscuits?

Do you linger, little soul,
Drowsing in our sugar bowl?
Or, abandonment most utter,
Shake a shimmy on the butter?

Do you chant your simple tunes
Swimming in the baby’s prunes?
Then, when dawn comes, do you slink
Homeward to the kitchen sink?

Timid roach, why be so shy?
We are brothers, thou and I.
In the midnight, like yourself,
I explore the pantry shelf!

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