by Andrea Livingston
On my evening walk, a high-pitched sound swirls through
the pines, as if a windstorm were electrifying bare branches,
as if their cones were clacking together like castanets.
But there is no wind tonight, only the bizarre buzz in the air.
Could it be the roar of my neighbor’s lawn mower?
No, the shrill notes are falling from the highest limbs.
Years ago, I heard a similar ruckus at a Day of the Dead
celebration. A couple were shaking their maracas so vigorously,
I feared their rattles would break, the beans
spill all over the street. But when they varied the rhythm,
tapping the instruments lightly with their fingertips,
the vibrations rose into the night like hummingbird wings.
I read billions of cicadas are returning to the East Coast
after 17 years underground where they’ve been busy
digging tunnels, drinking sap from tree roots, preparing
to surface into sunlight to sing their seductive songs.
Perhaps some have already decided to migrate to California
and sprout like crocuses from our fertile spring soil.
Walking down the wooded path I’ve taken this long, silent year,
I imagine hearing their come-hither calls, reminding me it’s safe
to inhale the evening air without fear of the blue-black vulture above.
I’ve learned there’s a time for silence, a time for song.
Andrea Livingston’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in MockingHeart Review, The MacGuffin, Rust + Moth, the 2020 Marin Poetry Center Anthology, Sky Island Journal, Rise Up Review, and elsewhere. Her poem “Paper Cranes” received honorable mention in the Barbara Mandigo Kelly Poetry Contest of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she works as a public policy editor and writer. Sabiyha Prince is an anthropologist, artist, and author based in Washington, DC. Her books and essays explore urban change and African American culture, and her paintings and photo collages grapple with memory, identity, kinship and inequality.