Cicada in Tenebris

By Matt Steel
15 December 2021

From a 12th century Gregorian chant


Tu qui sedes in tenebris
spe tua gaude:
orta stella matutina
sol non tardabit.


You who sit in the darkness
keeping your hope alive:
the rise of the morning star,
the sun shall not be slow.

Night is for sorrow and dawn is for joy,
says Paul Laurence Dunbar –
but sometimes the opposite is true.

Consider the cicada:
a fitting title
for that sweetgrass rooster,
midsummer singer,
gothic enchanter,
Magicicada Cassinii.

Backdrop of twilight,
bare toes in cooling grass.
Rhythm of rocking in porches,
companions settling into slats,
creak creak creaking
into back-whens like boots
that wear but one pair of feet
for seventeen or seventy years.

Then comes dawn
and the serenader’s face
shines monstrous in the light:
horrific Hemiptera,
loam-gut loiterer,
catacomb crawler,
windshield whacker,
bird-dog dessert.

Tu qui sedes in tenebris 
bris bris bris:
requiem, requiem, requiem.

You who wait in darkness:
rest, repose, make ready.
Earth is for dreaming,
night is for loving
and day day day
is for dying.