Cicada References in Literature (for Billy Collins)

Every seven years (or is it twelve?)
on hot August afternoons
you see them grubbing up
around ivy roots of universities:

white, ugly, flat,
splitting out from shells
like small 3x5 cards,
pale with faded blue lines:
disgusting consonants, ear-piercing vowels;
signed editions, anonymous poems,
publications of vanity presses,
paragraphs, stanzas, lines,
all crawling out blind and noisy
in the August sun.

In Ohio, very long sentences from
Faulkner’s complete works
tend to congregate;
although Eudora Welty counts
are pretty high;
the associated verbs show up
in Cincinnati: screech & rasp
being most frequent;
ugly little adjectives rub body parts
in Michigan; on the East Coast,
it’s Danté, of course;
and in California,
much depends on
the red wheelbarrow one.

Stay away from MFA students
in August: go to Antarctica;
listen to the cool slipping
of ice.

published first in Poetry Digest, 1996