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cicada song

27 April, 2017: cicada song


by Jeffrey Bowen
cicada song 
as the evening wanes and night looms ever darker
across the striated steel of cleveland’s skyline,
you can hear the long, sweet song
of late summer cicada,
ohio crickets,
and the fat frogs that linger along the hidden banks
of doan brook,
as it races from the shaker lakes,
then plunges headlong beneath the street,
tumbles unnoticed 
past coventry, little italy and the college,
to rise victorious at martin king,
then switch back,
and back
bubbling joyfully toward the lake.
the 1:00 am freight train,
rumbling across the mayfield bridge
past the co-op and the free clinic,
was once the one to take.
free passage
to erie, buffalo and niagra,
if out of the country cured your present,
provided your stake.
or, folks switched east
to syracuse, ithaca,
and new york,
lured by romance, adventure,
and work,
poetry and possibility,
rising like shimmering industrial light
reflected in pete seeger’s, hank williams’,
and woody guthrie’s eyes
jack kerouac’s, william burrows’,
and bob dylan’s cries
nelson riddle’s strings and willie nelson’s sighs…
hobo camps and bo jangles’ dance.

these days,
the box cars are all
chinese containers
locked tight,
and the homeless
line up
night after night
after night
on public square,
and the only songs
are insect wings
and the whispered
of a freight train
on the late
“Cicada Song” by Jeffrey Bowen, from Songs in the Key of Cleveland: An Anthology of the 2013 Best Cleveland Poem Competition. Crisis Chronicles Press, 2014. Used by permission of the author.
Jeffrey Bowen’s poetry has been published in Art Crimes, Cicada, Cool Cleveland, Hessler Street Fair Poetry Anthology, The City, The Cleveland Reader, and Whiskey Island Magazine. His work appears in the 1995 documentary Off the Page, on Cleveland Tumbadors (Fame City Records) and on Cats on Holiday’s Holiday in a Box (COHTONE Records). Bowen’s poetry made the Top Ten Cleveland Poems in 2013 and 2014. His tribute to poet Daniel Thompson won the 2015 Hessler Street Fair Poetry Anthology Contest.


The Ringling Brothers Circus will close forever next month. Write an elegy to the circus.

Farewell Big Top

Farewell to the Big Top, your acts will perform no more.

The Greatest Show on Earth is but a wonderful memory,

For so many children, and their children, and their children.

Goodbye to the dancing ponies, the fire eaters, the trapeze.

Goodbye to the roaring lions and tigers and jugglers.

Goodbye to the clowns on stilts who created laughter.

All things must end in due time, and the time seems due.

Elephants, acrobats and bears will retire to their next agenda.

Sadly the future generations will never experience this spectacle
4/28/2017 11:46:19 PM

Royce Johnston

Mom & Dad thrilled to the circus
A lifelong hunger for excitement
And a willingness to be carried along
By the smell, the hype, the impossible
Their legacy to my brothers and me
And our children

Ringling Brothers Circus
Brought the world to us
Once a year
A multicultural exposure
Before TV
Yes, even elephants

Miracles of another age
Push innocence and wonder aside
Much-loved animals return to the wild
To survival of the fittest
With memories of children
Dancing in their heads

Royce Johnston, April 27, 2017
4/28/2017 2:57:41 PM

Kimberly St. John-Stevens
Say it Ain't So
Big top larger than life
Full of wonder, full of charms
Elephants lions tigers and bears
Clowns in funny cars and dogs in hats
My first circus - spellbinding.

Stadium seats
Popcorn peanuts and toys hawked loud
Elephants lions tigers and bears
Motocycles spinning round and round
My children spellbound.

Say it Ain't So - Why Does the Circus have to Go?
4/27/2017 9:24:18 PM

The circus isn't coming to town today
No tickets to buy
No band to play
No laughing
No clapping
No joy
No fun
The 3 rings now closed
Forever done
4/27/2017 8:21:23 PM

Stephanie Watts
I never liked the circus.
The face of the clown
Grotesque with a frown
Smiling upside down…no

I never liked the circus
Acrobats flying
With ease and no wings
On tightropes walking…no

I never liked the circus
The tiger looked mad
The lion was sad
The trainer was bad…no

I never liked the circus…so
Good riddance…and GO!!
4/27/2017 4:23:52 PM

N. K. Hasen
Circus Is Closing Its Door

Circus will close its doors next month
I will miss going very much
Will not be able to take my nephews
To have them experience
What I saw when I was their age
They will not hear the words:
“Ladies and gentleman, children of all ages,
Welcome to the circus”, by the ringleader
They will not see the cats jumping through hoops
Will not in awe watch acrobats tightrope
Across on a tight rope to other side
And oh, the clowns that will be missed
Watching them do silly things
Their painted faces with funny expressions
Their silly gear they bring
The laughter that fills the air
Now will not be there
Then the elephant parade
As elephants march in single file
They lumber around, show off raising someone on trunk
Then putting front leg on elephant ahead of them
What a show that will be missed
I remember when I was young I use to go
It was fun and enjoyable experience
It was something you could say
“I was there, I saw a circus and love it!”
I will always treasure the time I went
Seeing the animals and clowns do their acts
It was a chance of lifetime to go
Since it traveled aboard everywhere on the road
I was glad to see it when I was very young long time ago
I will miss you The Ringling Brothers Circus
But, I can say when I am gray
I saw a circus when I was young and your age
I will tell stories of what I seen
Keep the memory of going alive
Watch my nephew’s eyes light in awe
Of what a circus is and what I saw
4/27/2017 3:45:30 PM

Chantelle Brady
The Greatest Show on Earth
is here but not for long
the Ringling brother's circus
next month will say so long

Goodbye forever
the trapeze act,
the forever clown
and the starting juggling act
that got them off the ground

Goodbye trick horse
and circus bear
which traveled round the world
Goodbye Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey's circus
the longest named traveling circus company in the world.
4/27/2017 1:59:44 PM

Mary Walsh
Circus Peanuts

Once, it was a treat
to see death-defying acrobats
in spangles
winking in the sweeping spotlights

Once, later, it was an outing
explaining whips and prods
and why the clowns were
never funny,
but their car was

Now, it is a memory
of sparkles and screams
of trumpting and clapping
of what used to be
and will never be again

Circus peanuts, after all,
are not from the circus
are not peanuts
much like the circus
no longer a home
for Toby Tyler
4/27/2017 1:00:25 PM

Jan C.
The Circus Comes to Town

What struck you first 
was the smell of caged animals
rank with boredom and rage.

Lions with matted fur pacing restlessly
dreaming of antelopes on the hot savanna plain

Elephants ponderously swinging their trunks, 
snuffling up stray peanuts thrown
by bored, sticky children.

The teams of acrobats in the Big Tent
strutting defiantly to their ropes and swings
knowing that a dark part of their audience's minds
secretly wishes that they would fall.

The brash and pitiless Midway
where barkers yelled at you to play a game
and made no secret what they thought of you:

I'll miss it when it's gone.
4/27/2017 12:54:51 PM

Cat Russell
I have been doing this daily, but I will definitely find this one challenging as I loathe circuses. I suspect that my elegy will not be flattering. :)

Thanks for the challenge! The more difficult ones are usually the ones that end up working the best!
4/27/2017 11:30:34 AM

READ + WRITE: 30 Days of Poetry is a collaboration between Cuyahoga County Public Library and poet Diane Kendig. Our thanks go to Diane and the poets of Northeast Ohio who allowed us to share their poetry.