Cicadas

Cicadas

Cicadas

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Aug. 16 2000 3:00 AM

Cicadas

Then, finding you
was akin to finding a scarab
in a sand lot, and I turned up the blue spades

Advertisement

low on the lilac, combed
the buff tassels of bulrush along the shore
for your carapace. And now, larval turns

marvel, turns monster: a swollen horde
drills holes up through Missouri clay,
brutally precise as the spike

of enemy tent-poles. You brooded in the slit
bark of my acacias, then hatched
into the plot of garden I wouldn't yet dig

for seventeen years, when, a thousand miles away,
my teeth clenched in the barricade against
the first tongued kiss, when I pumped

Advertisement

my legs in rage to make the wormy swing-board
vault me skyward, bleeding for the first time, queasy.
Seventeen springs you tunneled in blind grubhood,

unlikely genius of the lacy, brain-like maze
I cut open with my shovel. And now you emerge
in the greatest act of will I've ever seen, blood-

blister eyes bulging under the chitin, splitting the callus
of your brow. You flex your shoulders to
a sudden bulk, and your spine splits at the seam,

freeing wings tagged on like clotted
flippers. On your pale-ivory forehead, between red
eye-bulbs now hardened to the touch, a triad of dots glitters

Advertisement

like a fey tiara, but already your brow
is darkening, obscuring these cabochon rubies; the snout
begins to curl toward your chest like a parrot's beak

and a grillwork develops on your cheeks as on
a toy 50's Chevrolet. From the top
you're all bullhead, the abdomen but a clasp

That bustles up the lacquered train
which has not quite dried aright, crimped by the press
of comrades on the peony leaf. You squawk

and shriek when I dare to touch that organ
which others, having made it to the canopy, have tuned
to a synchronous pulse, an ultrasonic jackhammer

Advertisement

pulverizing thought. Here in such abundance
prepare for torture, for a hook through the head—
the child's shy delight will pass through the eras

of alarm and recoil, maturing to a cool inspection,
to the custom of seeing you as
a lively bait, so muscular it jerks the bobber down, tows it

suggestively out of the shallows.