My physics teacher’s pet cockroaches

Lay eggs, then eat the hatchlings.
His daughter is so sick. He forgets
to feed them. Laurel Fox argues,
cannibalism reduces population size
before acute resource shortages cause
physiological stress.
It is an experiment.
He owns a millipede. It was bought illegally. 
Wash your hands after touching.
The mites are symbiotic. The class takes turns
feeding the cockroaches. His millipede
is so sick.  While he is out, we hold a wake
for the millipede. No, cockroaches do not live forever.
No, they cannot survive a nuclear war.
We dare each other to eat them.
Fox likens this to spacing behavior,
dominance hierarchies in social animals.
The millipede coiled so perfectly
dead. On average, cockroaches live
for a year and three months.
They were a gift from his daughter.
The millipede is fed to the cockroaches.
Symbiotic may be defined as
denoting mutually beneficial relationships
between different groups
. Of the original five
there are now twenty. After every class he reads
to them goodnight. There, beneath lullabies
they eat themselves asleep.

Adric Tenuta’s poems appear in Crab Fat Magazine and The Columbia Review. They are majoring in creative writing and women’s gender and sexuality studies at Emory University.