To a Young Cicada in August

I saw you today. You’d been left behind. Caught in the act of unzipping your old skin. There among the husks of your siblings, you gripped the maple tree, your body the color of new leaves unfurling. I saw your convulsive twitch, your jointed limbs. I witnessed your struggle to be born. That moment of leaving your armor.

We are not strangers. I know you from your song, August’s soundtrack, that vibrating sine wave. Your evening crescendo rises in the ears of joggers, gardeners, children at play on browning lawns. We shout to be heard from under the trees—or fall silent altogether.

I know you from your shell, torment of my childhood. Yesterday I lifted your kinsman’s carapace from a raspberry. My fingers shivered to do it. Recalling crackly monsters my brother left on my bookshelf, my pillow, my light switch.

I know you from your jittering bounce on the ground, a curiosity for the dog, an opportunity for the cat.

Once you appeared at my back door after I wrote a poem in which you starred. You looked up at me as if to say, You rang?

But I’ve never seen you like this, freeze-framed in the act of vaulting into your new shape.

Does it hurt, this slow-mo backflip into freedom? It looks like it would hurt.

Maybe it hurts like a foot gone to sleep, the flow of blood returning. Maybe you sense that soon, very soon, your new wings will dry.

Do you look back at your exoskeleton once you’ve juddered free? That hull too small to contain you?

I look into your unblinking eyes, and I think not. Perhaps it’s more like this: You climb, you rest, you open your wings.

The buzzing symphony pulls you to the treetops. You ready your instrument.


by Shawndra Miller

Mennonite by birth, mystic by nature, Shawndra Miller is a writer and community organizer who lives in Indianapolis. She is coauthor of Sudden Spirit: A Book of Holy Moments and is currently working on a nonfiction book about community resilience. Her work has appeared in Edible Indy, Indiana Living Green, Farm Indiana, and Acres USA, as well as Boiler Journal and Lavender Review.

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