Poems and Poetry

Marcia and the Locusts | A Poem by Donal Mahoney

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.

Visit Donal at http://booksonblog12.blogspot.com/.

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