Song of the Locust

By Wayne Fonteix

Did you hear them this summer
Dying in the trees
Vibrating the air
Like some droning power plant
Or flying saucer
Hidden in the woods?
Cicada, Cicada, Cicada

They blackened the trees and sky
In drummed mourning
Ritual high mass,
Blind to the birds, too startled
To feast on this prey
Too new, too holy
Cicada, Cicada, Cicada

They dropped their heavy dirges
Like waves back to Earth
(Just relieved of her
seventeen year pregnancy)
Dull-roaring too loud
To raise our voices over
Cicada, Cicada, Cicada

Unhunted, free, still they die
Still eaten by ants
Black hollow shells left
Whole woods a funeral home
Now still after days
Of timeless lament
Cicada, Cicada, Cicada

Their children, in many Junes
Will also ascend
From the same pocked Earth
Listen, then, they’ll drum for you
Living but to grieve
And return to the grave
Cicada, Cicada, Cicada



Wayne Fonteix (right, above) and I edited Drew University’s literary magazine, Plateau, in 1979/80, our senior year. We closed the book that year with this poem by Wayne. Dr. Robert Ready, Wayne recalls, wrote in the margin, “Depressing. But good,” when the poem was workshopped earlier in the semester. Wayne and I ran into each other two years ago in Frenchtown, NJ. His poem, of course, is from two risings back–that would be 34 years ago! (see below)

old school

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