You Say Cicada, Which Shrivels My Ears


You Say Cicada, Which Shrivels My Ears

I say cicada, the difference lurking in the middle,
like the shortest dancer in an off-Broadway musical,
or a note hidden between two reams of legal paper
in the supply room of a well-appointed dentist’s
office, where you find yourself, by accident, searching
for the exit. But think how our sap-sucking friend must
feel, a foot underground, during its final instar phase,
reversing course, leaving behind the darkness
and moist roots, burrowing up through the soil
toward light and the shrug into maturity. And after
that, squeezing through a crack in what had been
itself, emerging, soft and vulnerable, slouching to the
inevitable call. I think of ecdysis, how we, too, shed
ourselves, leaving behind remnants, old skin and
armor, and rising, on occasion, wiser, softer, more
complete. But sometimes we try to reenter those
discarded shells. My acquaintance searches through
the past for bits of himself, purchases toys – marbles,
pocket knives – stitching together a semblance of the
old comfort. He keeps, in one jar, three teeth from his
childhood, in another the exuviae of a half-dozen
scorpions. How delightful it would be, he says, to
abandon your hardened self and become someone
new. He looks to the ground. I nod, and whisper.



“You Say Cicada, Which Shrivels My Ears,” appeared in the inaugural issue of Claw & Blossom, in July 2019. The poem was originally written during the August 2016 30-30 challenge. I’m grateful to Sunshine Jansen, who sponsored the poem and provided three words to be included in the piece: instar, ecdysis, and sap-sucking. Thank you, as well, to editor C.B. Auder for accepting the poem.



18 thoughts on “You Say Cicada, Which Shrivels My Ears

  1. I’m less familiar with cicadas (pronounced either way) … but I’m pretty sure the butterfly does not know it was once a caterpillar anymore than the caterpillar knows it will become a butterfly. Quite possibly we humans are in one stage … totally unaware of our prior/next stage … creating myths about birth and death to explain the unknowns.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I can’t read the word cicada without “hearing” their loud buzzing in my head and the extreme heat of an Osaka summer. BUT, it also reminds me of laying in the shade with a fan blowing while glass wind chimes tinkle above me (the heat relieved by icy zarusoba and even icier beer). Damn the cicadas, hail the zarusoba!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When I think of former selves, there’s usually one aspect of each that has an allure. But then I remind myself that it’s a product of all that coincided, and I’m more than satisfied with where (and what) I am.

    Liked by 1 person

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