By Jehanne Dubrow

November 22, 2021


Soon the insects would come up from the ground. It said so in the newspaper. After seventeen years—five longer than I had been alive—the cicadas would tunnel upwards from sleep into the hard touch of daylight.

A few weeks later, they rustled everywhere, a sound like crumpled cellophane. They sat on the wrought iron railing outside our door, on the sidewalk and the lawn, out on the street where the cars crushed them by the hundreds. They climbed the trunk of the apple blossom tree, their translucent wings fluttering the pink-white petals like a breeze in miniature, their eyes red seeds.

At school, one of the boys found a pair held together in winged desire, joined end to end, and tore them apart in a gesture so quick I knew he had practice making this kind of hurt. When he threw them both at me, I tried to brush the ripped bodies from my shirt. All afternoon I could feel them crawling across my arms, and I wanted to be outside myself, to no longer be touched by the twitching legs. I could feel their longing to be linked again and the rough fingers yanking wingtip from wingtip.

I ran the whole way home, the trees alive with thrumming, all the uncoupled alone among the leaves.


Jehanne Dubrow is the author of nine poetry collections and a book of creative nonfiction. Her second book of nonfiction, Taste: A Book of Small Bites, will be published by Columbia University Press in 2022. She is a Professor of Creative Writing at the University of North Texas.


Picture by Stephen Walker courtesy of Unsplash

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