17 Year Cicada by David B. Prather

translucent green wing
The Cicada by abbeyprivate (flickr.com). CC license.


Magicicada septendecim

I never thought I could love you,
arguing with leaves under midday sun,
your body a prune with polymer wings
that look like they might shatter
at a touch. When my father told my mother
he was in love with another woman,
everything breakable flew off shelves,
shook loose from frames, fell free
from cupboards. I was breathless,
my lungs heavy with humidity,
a death rattle shaking in my throat,
which reminds me of you, your song
a pall through afternoon and on
into evening. If only I’d known your name
was Tithonus, granted immortality,
but cursed with the unkindness of aging,

perhaps I would have listened
as you croaked your ancient trill.
Perhaps I might have looked beyond
your wizened face to see the beauty
that charmed a goddess. Perhaps
I would have stayed my hand, kept myself
from throwing you to the fire my father
built to burn underbrush from the field,
this fire he built between us
that rages all these years. Maybe,
this isn’t love, but pity—- pity
in the knowledge that my body, too,
will wither, my voice grow shrill.
And if I have wings, let them be clear
as glass, but crackled with every sorrow,
a mosaic of all the things I’ve left behind.

David Prather
David B. Prather is the author of We Were Birds (Main Street Rag Publishing, 2019), and he has two poetry collections forthcoming: Bending Light with Bare Hands (Fernwood Press) and Shouting at an Empty House (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions). His work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Comstock Review, Seneca Review, and in many other journals. He lives in Parkersburg, W.Va.

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2 thoughts on “17 Year Cicada by David B. Prather”

  1. Wow, such a good poem, the way it carries seamlessly, literally and figuratively all the way through!
    Thank you.

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