Tuesday Poem – Cicadas by Rachel Bush – In her memory.


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.

Four years ago I asked Rachel if I could post her poem Cicadas. She said yes.  Back then, in 2012, Rachel told me that she had been fascinated by cicadas for many years. She had listened to them in her Nelson garden, and walked up the Centre of NZ to their song. She added that she linked 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.

rachel bushCicadas was from Rachel’s third book of poetry, Nice Pretty Things, (VUP 2011) I was fortunate to attend its launch in Nelson, (Rachel’s home town.) Never have I seen so many people queued up to buy a book of poetry. Sadly, Rachel died on the 23rd of March this year; not long before her fourth book of poetry, Thought Horses, was published. I am re-posting this beautiful poem in her memory.

This is what Victoria University Press, her publishers, blogged, on March 24th. It is with great sadness we learned that our good friend Rachel Bush died yesterday. Rachel was a wonderful poet, an astute reader and a warm supporter of other writers. She will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with her family and close friends. Thought Horses, Rachel’s newest collection of poetry, will be published in April. We are so pleased that Rachel was well enough to work on her book with editor Ashleigh Young, and that she also got to see and hold her book. Read more.Thought Horses cover

I was delighted to discover  that extracts from Cicadas had been set to music by Gillian Whitehead when Helen Webby commissioned Ten NZ composers to write short works for harp. What an honour.


Thought Horses can be purchased at Victoria University Press.



To read more Tuesday Poems go to the Tuesday Poem Page.