This May, cicadas will emerge in tremendous
numbers across much of Northern Virginia,
Maryland and Washington. The cicadas are
from Brood X, and they’ve been living
underground for the past 17 years.
As they emerge, birds, squirrels, chipmunks,
skunks, ants, raccoons, snakes, frogs and
possums will gorge themselves for about a
week until they collapse into food comas.
You tell me you saw a bird
topple off a branch and hop
down the street, fat to bursting
and I do not believe you.
I do not believe you,
’til one morning,
the cat wanders in the back door
with bloated belly,
and opens her pink mouth
to let one Technicolor insect
When I squint at the treeline
to see for myself,
it seems all the birds
have gone into hiding.
When male and female cicadas meet, they
mate, facing away from each other. Three to
five days later, the female cuts slits into small,
live tree branches and deposits over two dozen
Cicadas will die two to six weeks after mating.
I’ve been trying not to swat
at the mothers when they fly
into my hair because I, too,
waited 17 years
to be undone. I know
they do not have the luxury.
We sleep back to back
and twist only to mate,
window cracked to buzz;
wine-bloated bellies and blitzed.
I think of the women
with their big orange eyes, sex-drunk
and soon to die.
It takes about six weeks for the eggs to hatch,
and the young cicadas resemble tiny termites.
They feed on tree sap, then fall to the ground,
where they crawl under the surface, tunnel and
Some mornings, we lick
syrup off fingers and scrape
pancake from plates.
I cook dinner each night
and almost enjoy it.
And in each tree, nymphs tumble
down trunks and burrow,
down to a nice root to begin
their faithful work of growing.
And with them,
my abdomen grows too.
Alissa Nalewajko is a student at Princeton University studying creative writing. She’s from Boise, Idaho, and loves to explore themes of persona and surrealism through her work. She has been previously published in Zeniada.