You Say Cicada, Which Shrivels My Ears

I say cicada, the difference lurking in the middle,
like the shortest dancer in an off-Broadway musical,
or a note hidden between two reams of legal paper
in the supply room of a well-appointed dentist’s
office, where you find yourself, by accident, searching
for the exit. But think how our sap-sucking friend must
feel, a foot underground, during its final instar phase,
reversing course, leaving behind the darkness
and moist roots, burrowing up through the soil
towards light and the shrug into maturity. And after
that, squeezing through a crack in what had been
itself, emerging, soft and vulnerable, slouching to the
inevitable call. I think of ecdysis, how we, too, shed
ourselves, leaving behind remnants, old skin and
armor, and rising, on occasion, wiser, softer, more
complete. But sometimes we try to reenter those
discarded shells. My acquaintance searches through
the past for bits of himself, purchases toys – marbles,
pocket knives – stitching together a semblance of the
old comfort. He keeps, in one jar, three teeth from his
childhood, in another the exuviae of a half-dozen
scorpions. How delightful it would be, he says, to
abandon your hardened self and become someone
new. He looks to the ground. I nod, and whisper.


Robert Okaji lives in Texas and occasionally works on a ranch. He does not have a degree in literature or creative writing, but once won a goat-catching contest. The author of five chapbooks, his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Vox Populi, Kissing Dynamite, North Dakota Quarterly, Ethel, and elsewhere.

Cicada illustration by C.B. Auder (magazine collage, 10 x 7-1/2 inches).

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