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Saturday, April 17, 2021


by Susan Terris

Turn of the 21st century, and 17 year cicadas had surfaced again in New Haven as I visited my girlhood friend Callie, daughter of another Callie—she: heavy, sedentary, called Big Callie but long gone by 2000. There, with the spring crocus pushing up, we crunched along the sidewalks strewn with empty shells shining in morning sun like gems of silver and gold, unable to escape still-live cicadas that sounded like water in a mad cascade. Years ago, cicadas had come just before Big Callie died of breast cancer. Then my friend—who had married a widower with two children—made him one again not very long after my visit. Yes,  my Callie died of breast cancer, too.


Now I worry for Callie’s daughter, her daughter’s two daughters. And then remembering her and the fragility of cicadas reminds me how my own cells had multiplied to breast cancer and 17 years later my sister’s, until I began counting off years and wondering what lay waiting for my daughter and my sister’s daughters, our clutch of granddaughters. Thousand upon thousand of empty shells and countless dangeous cells and the cascade of fears waiting out their own cycles, buried and dormant, until live and invasive

Susan Terris’ recent books are Familiar Tense (Marsh Hawk) 2019; Take Two: Film Studies (Omnidawn) 2017, Memos (Omnidawn) 2015; and Ghost of Yesterday: New & Selected Poems (Marsh Hawk) 2012. She's the author of 7 books of poetry, 17 chapbooks, 3 artist's books, and one play.  Journals include The Southern Review, Georgia Review, Prairie Schooner, and Ploughshares. A poem of hers appeared in Pushcart Prize XXXI. A poem from Memos was in Best American Poetry 2015. Her newest chapbook is Dream Fragments, which won the 2019 Swan Scythe Press Award. Ms. Terris is editor emerita of Spillway Magazine and a poetry editor at Pedestal.