To a Young Cicada

I looked for you today. There on the trunk of the maple tree, surrounded by the carapaces of your siblings, you’d been left behind. You were still unzipping your old skin and squeezing out. I saw your convulsive twitch, your jointed limbs, your staring eyes. Your struggle to be born. Your excruciating vulnerability in the moment of leaving your armor.

top viewI know you from your song, the vibrating sine wave soundtrack of every August of my life. Your evening crescendo drowns out human words spoken under the trees.

cicada shell

I know you from your shell, the source of childhood torment. Yesterday I picked one off a raspberry with shivering fingers, reliving the horror of such husks left by a prankster brother: on my pillow, my bookshelf, my lightswitch.

I know you from your rare jittering bounce on the ground, a curiosity for the dog, an opportunity for the cat. And once you turned up at my back door after I wrote a poem in which you starred. You looked at me as if to say, You rang?

cicadaBut I’ve never seen you like this, in the act of slow-motion vaulting into your new shape.

for blogDoes it hurt, this freeze-frame backflip into airborne freedom? It looks like it would hurt.

Maybe it hurts like a numbed limb awakening, the flow of blood returning. A rightness in the pain. A sensing that what comes next is flight.

Do you look back at that exoskeleton that used to house you, once you’ve finally juddered free? That hull too small to contain you? No. The buzzing symphony pulls you up to the treetops. You ready your instrument.

3 thoughts on “To a Young Cicada

  1. wow, Shawndra – what a great essay – I was just outside admiring an exoskeleton on top of my pumpkin just harvested – those enchanting shells are everywhere now…
    how special is ‘the rite of passage’ – in whatever form we observe it.

    • I’m seeing these shells march up crabapple trees. This morning I saw yet another cicada hatching–plus one just newly hatched and climbing up the tree. I guess there is a step before flight: letting the wings dry out and open up!

  2. Loved your writing on the cicada! You have a wonderful poetic way with words! You became the cicada as you wrote–feeling what they feel–Awesome!!!

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