Saturday, November 30, 2013

Donal Mahoney- A Poem

Marcia and the Locusts

Marcia was 17 the first time 
thousands of locusts rose 
from the fields of her father's farm 
and filled the air, sounding 
like zithers unable to stop.
Her father was angry 
but Marcia loved the music 
the locusts made. 
She was in high school then 
and chose to make 
locusts the focus 
of her senior paper. 

At the town library 
she learned locusts 
spend 17 years 
deep in the soil, 
feeding on fluids 
from roots of trees 
that make them 
strong enough 
to emerge  
at the proper time
to court and reproduce. 
Courtship requires 
the males to gather 
in a circle and sing until 
the females agree
to make them fathers.

Courtship and mating 
and laying of eggs 
takes almost two months 
and then the locusts fall 
from the air and die.
Marcia remembers 
the iridescent shells 
on the ground shining.
She was always careful 
not to step on them.
She cried when
the rain and the wind 
took them away

Now 17 years later Marcia is 34 
and the locusts are back again.  
Her dead father can't hear them
and Marcia no longer loves the music 
the way she did in high school.
Now she stays in the house 
and keeps the windows closed 
and relies on the air-conditioner   
to drown out the locusts.
Marcia has patience, however.
She knows what will happen.
She reads her Bible 
and sucks on lemon drops,
knowing the locusts will die.

In the seventh week,
the locusts fall from the air
in raindrops, then torrents.
"It is finished," Marcia says.
She pulls on her father's boots
and goes out in the fields
and stomps on the shells 
covering the ground
but she stomps carefully.

At 34 Marcia's in no hurry.
Before each stomp, 
she names each shell 
Billy, John, Chuck,
Terrence or Lester, 
the names of men 
who have courted her
during the 17 years 
since high school
They all made promises 
Marcia loved to hear, 
promises she can recite 
like a favorite prayer.
She made each man happy
as best she could.
They would grunt
like swine the first night,
some of them for many nights. 
But then like locusts 
they would disappear.

Donal Mahoney lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

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