This work pays homage to Julia Spicher Kasdorf's work, "Summer of the Seventeen Year Cicada" , which was created for the Handprint Identity Project: An Exchange Between Artists and Poets. Julia is a professor at the Penn State University.
"Summer of the Seventeen Year Cicada" is reprinted in her collection, POETRY IN AMERICA, the University of Pittsburgh Press.
Summer of the Seventeen Year Cicada
Brood XIV covers the trunk of a giant catalpa
the girls call the swing tree, though our old neighbor
calls it a deer tree for the gutted carcasses that hung
there during hunting season. The kids fear the split, brown
husks stuck to its bark, to leaves, to blades of grass,
hung even from the swing’s ropes, or anywhere
an insect lurched free and emerged a new thing
of glass wings and red, beaded eyes. They hate
the thrumming that rises in shimmering waves
like heat over asphalt on hot days, so loud
they can’t hear one another at their games
which require incessant narration: pretend
you are married; pretend I’m the baby; pretend
someone’s buried under the bald patch in the grass.
They beg for butter to lure the bugs into bags
they will smash. So much for the wonder of nature.
Listen, I say, they deserve life as much as you do!
Harmless miracles sprung from underground grubs,
the loudest bugs on the planet, Homoptera magicicada.
The Greeks believed their song resembled the soul
or men who loved the dialectic so much their bodies
shriveled up. But the kids no longer listen,
and truth be told, I, too, hate their shrill, muddled mating,
the way they lunge at my face and hair when I mow
between lilac and mock orange. We hope for quiet,
cool mornings, recite the life cycle and count weeks.
Soon this frenzy will be done, and when the cicadas return
these girls will thrum with their own inescapable noise.
Julia Spicher Kasdorf
with permission of the poet