WHEN THE CICADAS WERE OUT OF THEIR FUCKING MINDS

By Matthew Lippman

 

I tried to imagine myself on the other side of Prince but couldn’t do it.
That’s the truth
because Mark Heyert took me to the little record shop
next to the Smith Opera House and bought me Sign ‘O The Times
like it was the last thing anyone could ever do.
Oh, you can’t even talk about that record, not even now.
You can’t talk about the way Christina Condak kissed me
outside of Miller Hall
when the cicadas were out of their fucking minds
trying not to die.
It was September and who knew there’d be that much grief in the world.
Tonight, maybe there’s that much grief in a guitar
quiet in its case against the heat.
I slung one across my shoulder once
to see how it felt
in the crook of my back
before I threw it off the porch onto Pine Street
to see
if I could get it to vibrate into the ether
so the hair on my neck would convulse in 4/4 time
or in the off time of the off beat
the way it did when I heard Housequake
for the first time.
I’m quaking now with the rest of us,
I don’t care who you are
or where you hide your drugs,
pray to your God,
lift your child before the sea—
this is worse then we could have ever imagined.

I tried to imagine myself on the other side of Prince
after he left this earth today
but can’t quite seem to do it right
except when I hold Heyert’s hand
on the banks of Croton
looking west across the Hudson
to a dream that still lives out there, somewhere,
of all things good and beautiful—
wet pink petunias,
a woman and a man between a mountain
and a woman and a man between a mountain.

There is only this
and the memory of Christina’s lips
sliding across the night
to stave off the death march of those unruly insects.
I wish she were here with me now, Heyert too,
in his big white caddy screaming,
Not your momma,
not your momma,
not your motherfucking momma,

to push the death back
so Prince could have one more day
to pick up his purple guitar
and tear the roof off the sucka’
letting us imagine
what we have always imagined—
a man and woman and a mountain
on this side of Prince
is the better side to be on,
the 17 year old cicadas--
billions of them about to burst forth from the earth,
and rise from dead.


Matthew Lippman is the author of 4 poetry collections.