The Day of the Cicadas

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Text and photos by Dady Chery

Haiti Chery

Mind you, this was subtle. But somehow I noticed the small turquoise mass oozing from the car’s front tire like a line of toothpaste. It was roughly cylindrical, about half an inch wide and one inch long, tucked behind the tire, near to the ground. So easy to kill, but a coincidence had prepared me for it.

A week ago, while I watched a Monarch and a Queen butterfly cavort around each other in a public garden, a woman next to me talked about a friend who collected marvelous photos of insects and was awash with excitement during their last phone conversation, because she had discovered in her garden what I just found behind the car’s right front tire.  I had listened then, amazed, half wishing I might make a similar discovery and half knowing I probably never would.

Once my husband knew what I was observing, without a word he brought me my rolling gardener’s bench. I would be a while.

It should have been a morning like any other, but this was no more true for me than for this cicada emerging from his shell.

The first things one could discern were the large eyes that popped out of the animal’s downturned head. This is obviously someone who relies too much on his sense of sight. So human, I thought, though this kin hardly looked it.

Patience… patience.

After the head came the torso — a solid mass with ridges that gradually gained the aspect of a sturdy chest with several pairs of limbs. The long, articulated, turquoise legs slowly began to reach for something. Yes. There it was: the hollowed leg of the spent exoskeleton, now held with such tenderness as to remind me that I was intruding on a solemn moment.

Dear mother… I thought.

Perhaps this being, who had faded and returned in ways men can only fantasize about, was saying thank you and goodbye to another life – remembering and letting go.  Had there been friends?  Pleasures?  There would be flight now, the sun, and love.

The abdomen and wings would be last. The wings started small and somewhat crumpled, but slowly they smoothed out into a pair of clear, turquoise-veined leaves. Would he fly soon?

The thought had barely passed my head when another, more mature, black-veined cicada buzzed in a nearby patch of grass, as if to practice his flight muscles.  I offered him a twig.  The speed with which he accepted this surprised me.

“What took you so long?  Yes, just the thing.” he might have said.

The wings, clear of the grass on their next effort, transported him yards away and up onto a high branch of a large oak.

I extended the same stick to my turquoise friend.  He too took it, but slowly. He did not fly.

There would be yet more preliminaries to this first flight.

I placed him gently in the grass, away from the car’s dangers.

Again, he reached for something.

I brought him his shell.  Then I kept still.

Source: Haiti Chery

© Copyright 2010-2013 by Dady Chery.

Dady Chery

About Dady Chery

Dr. Dady Chery is a Haitian-born journalist, playwright, essayist, and poet. She is the author of "We Have Dared to Be Free: Haiti's Struggle Against Occupation." Her broad interests encompass science, culture, and human rights. She writes extensively about Haiti and world issues such as climate change and social justice. Her many contributions to Haitian news include the first proposal that Haiti’s cholera had been imported by the UN, and the first story describing Haiti’s mineral wealth.

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