Summertime poem

with thanks to Abigail, Betsy, and Soshi for the invitation to write on this topic for #verselove at Ethical ELA today (who’s not longing for summer right now?!).

Here’s why summer has such a special pull for me.

For Day Nineteen of National Poetry Month

Summer Second

Sunny afternoon
blue sky
bit of breeze
faint sound of a radio
from a neighbor’s yard
I can’t discern the song
it just sends me into 
reverie
for a second
conjuring
hot sand
under my bare feet
Coppertone in my nose
salt on my tongue
If everybody had an ocean
across the USA
then everybody’d be surfin’
like Californ-i-ay…

snatches of conversation
cresting and dipping
on the breeze
mighty waves of memory
crashing on the shore
my father’s big black sandals
flip-flopping to the old navy-blue Ford
the battered brown Samsonite
suitcase in his hand
the ride is so long
so long
the city gives way
to pastures, meadows
horses
fields
that go on and on, forever
plowed furrows running
like long crazy legs
to keep up 
with the Ford
as we zoom past
until at last
the lonesome highway
comes to a fork
on the left,
the tiny church
where my ancestors
sleep under stones
we veer to the right
turning 
onto the dirt road
my heart beats faster
Daddy drives slower
stirring clouds of dust
and I am already
grabbing the door handle
as Granddaddy’s lush garden 
comes into view
with just a glimpse of 
Grandma’s white angel birdbath
circled by orange marigolds
through the laundry 
lazily flapping
on the clothesline
and there they are, 
walking across
the green, green grass
and I am out of the Ford
before it’s hardly stopped
and in their arms
in the blinding sun
as the forest stands tall
all around
with its cool
dark mysteries
where the rattling cicadas
crescendo
vibrating on and on and on
through my soul
I can’t discern the song
it just carries me
through eternity
in this one
bright second

On cicada wings

Cicada wing. Kristine Paulus. CC BY

A hymn, of sorts, on hearing one of my favorite sounds for the last time this year—it echoes from idyllic childhood summers and the country roads of my ancestral homeplace. A strangely sacred sound, it always lifts my spirits and aches in my soul at the same time.

High in the oaks

against the bluest of skies

the rattling swells

as its season dies.

An oxymoron

this buzzing call

from amid the leaves

soon to fall.

This song of my childhood

lingering still

in the last of the light

before the chill.

Full force, the cicada sings

—doesn’t it know?—

summer’s gone on the wings

of a song long ago.

***

Cicada rhythm

cicada-on-post

Image: Cicada on a post. Jo Naylor CC BY 

Summer is dying now, taking with it one of the things I love best: The song of cicadas.

If you’ve ever heard cicadas in full throttle, you might not agree with “song” as a fitting description of their cacophonous buzzing. It’s not pretty. The noise can be deafening.

Yet when I hear that first discordant rattle sometime in May, my spirit rises, my own heart sings in response.

The song of cicadas calls to me from long ago, when I was a little city girl spending sultry summers in the country. The song evokes narrow dirt roads keeping an ominous forest from encroaching on rustic homeplaces, tiny cemeteries where baby after baby is buried under white monuments adorned with lambs, and the old church just around the bend. The song is one of ages, the rising and falling of generations, all of us coming and going in our time. It is a song reverberating with tire swings hanging from pecan trees, canals teeming with frogs and turtles, white-tailed deer bounding up from lush ditch banks along fields at dusk. It is the bright song of the sun, of hope, of continuity. It is the dark song of the night, oddly comforting; something out in the blackness is vibrantly alive, maybe keeping watch, while children drift off to sleep. It is the sound of safety, stability, belonging. Calling and calling, the crescendo mirrors the rhythm of life, brimming with promise, echoing eternity. When I hear it, I am a child again, no matter how many summers have come and gone. My home is in the countryside now and it is with a deeper pang each September that I note the song fading out. Every May, as I mark another year of my existence, I listen for the first returning rattle. You’re back! my heart sings. Ah, but we were here all along, they might say, if cicadas had words. There’s a lot of living and loving yet to do. You have today. Carry on.

Reflect: What’s one thing in nature that inspires you? Why?