Louder now, they weave their song
among the trees, grappled onto branches
where the wind never upends them
and summer gathers fire day and night.
Like old pipers wheezing the same
crazed note, they sit and drone between
quick catches of breath from their
enclosed height. God-awful racket!
After seven or seventeen years underground,
they are raucous lords of the air and earth.
How do they sleep so long in darkness
beneath the surface noise of the earth?
How do they know it's time to come up
in the hottest month of the year?
What do they see after those murky years
with their tiny eyes like beads of pitch or tar?
It must be memory's old bright place,
the first desert, prairie, wood, or swamp
where their voices came bubbling up
to terrify or tire creation's other forms.
A man on my block who worked nights
once shotgunned the trees outside his house
as if that would stop the buggy music.
But when the smoke cleared it arose at once,
and that man fell back inside the dark,
desperate from too much sweating or listening.
When I lie helpless in my room,
unable to sleep or think or dream out loud,
the sound in my ear is a silence in my heart,
pincered, dusty white, and unkillable.
As a boy I'd see one fall from the sky,
wrapped with a hornet in a death-embrace.
They'd land in a blur on the sidewalk or grass
and a prolonged, horrid cry let loose
not like any human voice I'd ever heard,
but still a screeching or beseeching
that arced the air with a zinc flash
whose cinders fell on everything.
I watched the brief struggle in the grass,
then death arose with a king in his arms.
The sudden chill felt back then comes
close again as I recall the rhyme abuzz in
chicharras, whose slangy meaning is
electric cattle prods. Somewhere
in the world a torturer enters a cell
with one of these ravagers of burning steel.
Its blackened head sparks and crackles,
searing the genitals of a woman or man
whose suffering feeds the lords of death,
whose cries last a thousand thousand years