A Summer Songster
by Martin Elster
Just up ahead, beneath the streetlights’ glare,
a splendid, fragile thing who’s left his bed
of earth now stands with wide-set eyes to stare
up from the pavement, eyes that should have led
him to a trunk. Still, out of his broad head,
they scrutinize the steamy atmosphere
for somewhere he may vibrate, buzz, and wed
his song to summer, soon to disappear.
His veiny wings, transparent as the air,
great glassy shields, have hardened since he shed
his stiff, confining jacket to declare
he has arrived where any tramp could tread
and, with one careless footstep, leave him dead
as his discarded skin. But since I’m near,
I’ll help him with his pilgrimage instead.
He’ll sing of summer, soon to disappear.
It’s me and him — whose visits are as rare
as gnats on Neptune. Pansy blossoms — red,
white, yellow, orange, violet — everywhere
adorn the yards and lanes, so many spread
with toxicants by those who have a dread
of patchy grass, beneath which, year by year,
strange beings grow, then clamber free, sap-fed,
to sing a tune that soon will disappear.
Black prince, you study me, but could have fled.
You drone. Crawl up onto my palm. No fear.
We reach an oak, where you’ll pick up the thread.
Your kind will croon — while we all disappear.