With the Cicadas


The evening is long with shadows
of the afternoon chopped and spent
at the edges of green black leaves
of pubescent jackfruit trees.
With the cicadas I pause and creek.
With the cicadas I wax and shrink.

A blackbird took flight sideways
in the ballooning miles of dirt,
White blood dripped from the petiole
on the goldfish orange shirt,
The other one’s a canary yellow,
and lives forever in the wardrobe.

At my back is the swarm of pollen,
saplings and shoots unpenned
and comatose. I look forth in dread
at the keening miasma of brain:
Cloudburst of birdsong at dawn
peters into swansong at end.

I am keeping a comb since the day
reactors crumbled in Chernobyl,
or even earlier. I had a hairstyle
that parted to a side, or swayed—
the oasis is now a sandhill.
Did I say I had vials of ink?

With the cicadas I mutter and think:
Do the chatter and cacophony matter?
The curlicues of letter and syllables,
Do the drops of Chardonnay flatter?
With the cicadas I pause and creek.
With the cicadas I wax and shrink.


  1. I think the canary yellow, that lives forever in the wardrobe, would highlight the sand dune oasis rather beautifully! I liked this poem very much – even read it aloud several times – I liked the underlying cynicism-come-humour, and the cacophony of colours that tumbled this way and that. The scary side of the cicada chatter is that it took them years before they began to make any noise… and was it worth it?…

    1. I am surprised, then I should be not. Trust you to cruise through the heart of the heartache like hot knife through butter. As for that answer disguised as a question, I guess it is an existential dilemma. Thank you, Bruce, for your vision and the kind nod, and most of all, for being there.

  2. Wonderful poem, Umashankar, so full of vivid imagery! And I love the way the first and last verses close with the lines that bring it all together…”With the cicadas I pause and creek. With the cicadas I smile and shrink,” very lyrical. Well done!

    1. There is a consciousness in me which is different from my usual self and it is in moments when the former has overtaken the latter that I write poetry. And I let it do whatever rhymes and refrains strike its fancy. Thank you for your support, Madilyn.

  3. Is that about a lonely soul ( not a sad one ) spending time with nature and varied thoughts coming his way in random order ? A really nice one Umashankar ji easy to visualize ( though correctly or not I wonder ) —enjoyed reading it

  4. Such a beautiful and fine piece of work Uma. I loved the “white blood dripped from the petiole…” part. Transported me to a time when as kids, we believed that a tree would cry when hurt… White Tears we said 🙂

    1. It is amazing how I too believed in the white tears when I was a child. It has come to denote so much now that I think of it. Thank you for those beautiful words.

  5. I’ve read them and reread them. And each time I’ve savoured the sound, the imagery of birdsong petering into swansong, of pollens and saplings lying comatose. Keep writing, my friend, some of us will wait for the seeds to unfurl it’s plume and take the shape of yet another beautiful plant.

  6. Beautiful little poem. I can hear the cicadas 🙂 Often I think that this and that could be different, and there is a whole list I have to work on, and then I walk out in the dark, and sit, and listen to cicadas, and I know that all is well and taken care of.

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