Judith Sanders


The Lay of Judith the Cricket Killer

Sing, O Muse, and through me tell the story
of a complicated woman, of how she battled
an invasion of brown crickets in her basement
with courage, cunning, and dish detergent.

‘Twas a chilly autumn night when this Lady
descended to her storeroom in search
of a box of flakes for a bedtime snack.
By the greenish glimmer of a bare bulb,
she saw, to her horror, a grotesque spider,
which sprang toward her person.
Our Lady shrieked and stamped
in a macabre dance, striving to crush
the miniature monster beneath the heel
of her fuzzy slipper. But the wily beast
dodged her blows and scuttled
beneath the washing machine.

Alas, in this first combat, our heroine
suffered a defeat most grievous,
and her heart was sore, as was her heel.
Over the fortnight, more such monsters
leapt forth one by one from darkness.
They were as ugly as squashed octopi.
They had flat heads without faces.
Their thighs, swollen like toads’,
powered their slingshot hurtling.

She determined that they were not
jumping spiders but Brown Crickets,
fleeing autumn’s chill by freeloading
off her castle’s warmth. Their sobriquet
was a crafty disguise. These were not
the songsters cherished for feng shui,
nor the delicate miniature Baryshnikovs
imported to patrol a vegetable patch.
Nay, these were vermin. They slithered
through cracks, hell-bent on destruction.
Their mandibles, crunching ceaselessly,
threatened the archives, the treasures,
and cast-off garments of the Lady’s heirs,
stored hodgepodge in the castle vaults.

Night after night, a brazen interloper
snuck forth like a sniper, bespeaking
hidden legions. Our brave Lady
donned her gauntlet of rubber gloves,
and armed herself with lance and net,
a spray bottle and paper towels.
She attacked with valor and vigor,
as befits a true warrior. “Heigh ho,”
she cried, as she slashed about
and spritzed with her bottle,
“appeal not to my soft woman’s heart,
thou rusty bolt, thou hideous mistake,
devoid of fur or face, thou failed life form,
hardly deserving the name. Hie hence,
or be slaughtered sans mercy.”

Alas, as she charged, each intruder feinted
and sprang away. It hung in a high corner
or taunted from behind an overstuffed shelf.
Her blows struck nought but air.

This Lady prided herself on past triumphs.
Hitherto she had singlehandedly repelled
a mouse, ants, aphids, and stink bugs.
She resorted not to pesticides,
which her Code of Honor forbade
as cowardly as well as carcinogenic.
But this new foe was outwitting her.
She was dejected. She bowed her head
and consulted the oracle Google.

“Verily, thou shalt prepare a trap
of a plastic Thai takeout container
filled with a lethal mixture of water
and dish detergent. Set it next the crack
from whence thine enemies issue.
A curse shall draw them thither.
They shall plunge, whereupon the soap
shall seal their shells. This bubble bath
shall prove their watery grave.”

Our Lady did as instructed. As foretold,
the beasts therein met their gruesome ends.
Nightly did she dispose of their carcasses,
complaining neither of stink nor slime,
nor bothering her husband for relief.
Lo, after weeks, the hideous miscreants
leapt forth no more. The Lady could seek
a bedtime snack in peace. Joyfully,
she tossed the trap into the recycling.

News of her glorious victory spread.
People dubbed her Judith the Cricket Killer.
Well did she deserve that fearsome epithet:
Like her eponym, she had felled a Holofernes.
Her kinsmen looked up from their phones
and showered her with accolades, such as
“Cool, Mom,” and, “When can we eat?”
So she herself set forth a celebratory feast
from the stores she had so bravely protected.
Her husband raised his chalice of craft mead
and offered a toast: “Honey, they’ll be back.”
The Lady ignored this unseemly buzz-kill.
Grabbing a spoon for a mic, she burst into song:

“O Brown Crickets!
Hadst thou not had the chutzpah
to invade territory not thine own,
hadst thou remained outdoors,
snug under fallen leaves,
thou wouldst live to leap today,
and thy descendents would have
flourished unto many generations.
Instead, for thy foul incursion,
I, Judith the Cricket Killer,
have slain thee, proclaiming,
‘This House is mine forever.
I shall defend it against foes
handsome or hideous,
leaping or stationary,
using whatsoever availeth
of courage, cunning,
and dish detergent.’”

Judith Sanders, an eccentric Victorian aristocrat, a French intellectual, a socialist kibbutznik, and an Amish housewife, somehow grew up in a New Jersey housing development as a red-diaper granddaughter of Yiddish immigrants. She too immigrated by traversing cultural divides to join the first class of women at Yale. She was lured into the underworld of academia, from which she emerged clutching an ornamental MA in writing and a PhD in English. After, she spent decades talking to herself in front of students. Meanwhile she published in well-meaning journals and anthologies; a couple of her poems lucked into winning prizes.