Poem of the week: Cicadas

A new work by Frank Ormsby

Frank Ormsby,  Ireland Professor of Poetry 2019-2022.

Frank Ormsby, Ireland Professor of Poetry 2019-2022.


The big tree in the hotel car-park is loading with sound,
the electrifying ache of cicadas. They inhabit the night
like a thousand American corncrakes gathering to create
the first Cicada Tree. Cacophonous angels,
they scrape their violins as though harmonies might yet be found.
Are we hearing rain-sticks, or the tics of a giant time-piece
or the bristle of a shorn cornfield? And through it all the persistent
throb of the loudest foreplay on the planet:
tumescent cicadas crying for a mate
in the heat of summer. Impossible to tell
how the mass courtship has gone. Does the tree
keep open house for its horny neighbours?
Does it have a choice? it has weathered
the lust-storm and will again, without,
so far as we can tell, being stripped bare.
May its branches accommodate, between cicadas, some small
melodious bird. May it mother a winter blossom. May its reward
be as guest conductor of the dawn chorus.

Frank Ormsby’s most recent collection is The Rain Barrel (Bloodaxe ).

He is the current Ireland Professor of Poetry.