Brooding–Michael Martone

Seventeen years ago.  The house in Syracuse, on Fellows Avenue.  A sun porch on the second floor, windows all around, she had painted a pencil yellow, a school bus yellow.  The squat computer, a putty color, sat on the sterilizer table, dialed up, squawked for the first time. Tone and twinkle, hiss and static sigh, ripping zip, twist and ratchet. O. O. O. “Hello.”

In the cloud of trees, canticles of cicada barked, waxed and waned, tinkered with their tuning.




penetrating the rock

sound of cicada







Northern Light…

Alta Vista…




May. Now. Seventeen years later, Brood II emerges in the east.


Magicicada Septendcim

Magicicada Septendecula

Magicicda Cassini.


Cicada, cicada, cicada.  The name (though it is not onomatopoeic but Latin for tree cricket) mimics the song. The long sibilant. The cawing caw. The dada da of the of the of the denouement, a trill falling off, entropic, unable to escape the gravity of, of, of a marble, dribbling on, each rebound lessening, dribbling on a concrete floor.

Just now, just now (another window is open on this machine, a program running) the chirrup of an alert.  As I type this this, a comment has emerged in my timeline.  The comment palimpsesting into place on the Facebook.  Two tones, two tones like like the clicking cricket the nuns (I remember) used to use to time our genuflections.


a cicada chirrs—

there! and there!

stars appear



One billion buried grubs per square mile.  Buried for seventeen years but not asleep, no, no suspended animation, no dreaming dreams of waking, of falling upward.  A lot of rooting around down there.  Rooting for roots.  The earth crawling with them, coiled like the watch springs they are.

All one needs to do is type into a field and enter.  In seconds, millions of returns return in seconds, scores and scores of hits, hints from hither and yon, hinterlands come out of hiding.  The lists and lists come back in instants and after years one wonders no longer about an other, another one.  Another other emerges.  Emerges.

Now that I think about it, the @, the “at” symbol, the ampersat, that balled-up bug, has the look of burrowing bulging-eyed nymph.  Or the @ is a map of absence.  A sink of seeking.  A sink of sought.  All that time circling down the drain.  Screwed.  Worm-holed.  Bored and bored.

Then, the elm trees were still living, and they were scaled with the spent shells, the papered and papery leavings the bugs bugged out of.  I had to pry them from the trunks they were stuck to.  Pointing up the brick siding of my grandparents’ red brick house as well, grappled in the grout, a kind of fossil ivy.  I kept them in a glass jar, a mess of little brittle blisters, those bugged-out eyeless eyes, blown glass, goo goo googly, bulging orbits.  Shifting shifts.  Slit open sleeves.  A thousand thousand-yard stares.  What were they thinking?  Thought balloons configuring their own empty empty-headedness.  And all around me, invisible, was the busy full-bodied buzz buzz babbling of the brooding.


a cicada shell

it sang itself

utterly away



I wonder what happened to her or her or her.  Carol Clay Clay Clay.  The scuffed anthills on the walks home from school.  Nancy Carrollllllll.  The lightning bugs made into ashy jewelry.  Maripat Golf, a estuary of silence after that graduation party in somebody’s backyard where seeing her through the screen of the lilac bush, obscenely in bloom, touch David Esinbarger’s hand (I’ve looked him up—he’s dead, he died after that but before this writing now) I ran back home through the alley ways of North Highlands and the tunnels of screaming sirens, cicadas sawing, seeing what I saw again and again.  Where are you now?  You and you and you.  Why after all these years can this song or that one or this one here not be unsung?


“Over the course of an emergence, male periodical cicadas congregate in huge choruses or singing aggregations, usually located high in trees.  Females visit these aggregations and mate there.  Males of all species have typical calling songs as well as special courtship songs, the latter being given only in the presence of females.  In Magicicada septendecim, the calling song is a prolonged buzz that drops in pitch at the end:  weeeeeee-ah. This song is very low pitched around 1.3 kHz….  When a male approaches a female, she responds by clicking her wings after each song, and he slurs his songs together.”

The Songs of Insects by Lang Elliott and Wil Hershberger


I stare at my screens.  Images of zombies back from the dead staring back at me.  I believe I am to identify with the living in these dramas, but secretly I have much empathy for the re-animated dead.  Their staring reminds me of my staring.  Their predation of brains is done too literally, I think, for the sake of an audience’s visceral response.  I like to think of that hunger more metaphorically, a desire not for the biological nutrient but the virtual one.  There is a mad curiosity I see. “What’d I miss?” Suspended under ground, out of time, as you were, poor zombie.  It is a hunger for the synaptic recording of time, the looping tapeworm of memory.  The past needs to be tapped.  Stare at me now, staring at this screen as I scroll through the searches, searching for what?  What?  What?  My shuffling, stuttered scroll.  My clicking.  My stalling.  My missing.  My finding.


even with cicada—

some can sing

some can’t



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