Poem Begun with a Line from Basho
—in gratitude to Darby Lyons

A cicada shell; it sang itself utterly away.
Is that what they’ll say when I plunge to earth,
wings stopped in mid-flight?

It’s true, I’ve labored in the dark for years,
found my way out of tunnels in the mud,
left behind so many husks. They crackle

underfoot of the ones who never wait
their turn, who rush toward the front,
making the loudest sounds.

They never notice the patient hawk
who hides in the pine, whose eye and ear
perceive all standout shrieks for fame.

In one great swoop, they are swallowed
in a flash of talon and beak. While those
who sing in the chorus drone on, fall

to the earth in one piece. Sung out.
Reduced to echoes, remembered,
perhaps, by other insects, scavenged
aloft as holy on lacquered beetle backs.