After seventeen years, the Brood X cicadas left their deep earthen bunkers by the billions. They do this for around a two-month period, first appearing like 1950s movie aliens, with orange bug eyes on black plastic bodies, flying around on saranwrap wings laced with black-thread filigrees. The background din they create bears witness to their numbers punctuated by blink-of-an-eye lifespans, their shell corpses paving the way everywhere. Sound is how they touch base with their kin and scope out ways to mate and procreate. Again, the din of billions can make unaware listeners wince. In the entire process of flying and crying to find mates, they steer their unwieldy aircraft shells to bushes and trees. Crash landing their crates, they split them to emerge as wormish caterpillars and get it on. They drill deep into soft tree trunk tissue, issue a load of eggs, then go off to die. The eggs hatch, offspring crawl below deck deep into the firmament to rest and wait for seventeen years, after which it all begins again. Here’s a poem written in honor of the the cicada odyssey. ( To be sung to the tune of Don’t Cry for me Argentina–or not.)
Don’t drum my ears massed cicadas,
seventeen years gone from your maters,
we know you’re patient
though somewhat dated,
your orange eyes vacant,
your sere-laced carapaces.
Homely to humans though quite scrumptious,
to those who like munching crunchy lunches,
we knew it was in ya,
brief moments in time
sacrificed for the next in line.
Sleep deep drowsy burrowed nymph-cadas,
we’ll see you around here much later,
a score minus three years no doubt
unless we ourselves age out.