If she were here she would say
the cicadas, the cicadas and rest
her arms on the frame with the window
folded and pushed aside and she would
listen, just that, doing nothing but noting,
while high tide on a summer night holds
her in its sea, how cicada cicada cicada out of
the ground after seven white years tight in the crush
of earth have crawled to the light, bust
out to beat and drum leg to leg,
to say themselves, over and over.
Why is it so hard to see one of you when I can hear the sound of so many?
How do you see or find each other in the hot night and in the mild day?
Do you recognise the lost luggage of your sisters and brothers that clings to
telegraph poles, walls, tree trunks, leaves of monbretia?
What is the name of the woman who gathers your transparencies with their sticky
frail claws to preserve them in clear resin?
Who will make jewellery of your exoskeletons?
3. A cellist who thought she had arranged to meet my husband arrived to stay but he had gone away. She knelt on the bed in the sun porch with the windows pushed aside and listened to the cicadas that are the antecedents, the great grandparents of those I hear now while they say themselves, speak themselves and tell where they are. These cicadas were full of wings and desire and yearning. So there was this young woman I did not know, with no cello on this February evening twenty-five years ago, but just the mild air and the demands of cicadas. Their insistence and requests moved around and hit against the asking of others. She rested her forearms on the window sill and it was better than the radio, the television or an LP, maybe better than my husband would have been and all the words they would have said to each other. If they had met here I would have forgotten what was said.
There was just a woman and unnumbered, innumerable insects one night in that short season when it must all be said or never, or never.
Thanks to Rachel and Victoria University Press for permission to use this beautiful poem.
Rachel comments that she has been fascinated by cicadas for many years. She has listened to them in her Nelson garden, and walked up the Centre of NZ to their song. She links her thoughts about these intriguing creatures and their seven year sojourn underground by writing about them in three ways, beginning and ending with the visit of a young woman cellist 28 (four times seven) years ago.
Cicadas, is from her latest collection, ‘Nice Pretty Things’ and others’, published by Victoria University Press 2011.
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