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Clade Song 13


At night, up in the oaks, true katydids divide
themselves in choirs, each internally synchronized,
but alternating with others nearby, an endless
call-and-response loud enough to have frightened

the early pilgrims. Walking through the dark
with my children, listening to the dull roar
of the katydid choirs, I wonder what
the Wampanoag heard in the evening chorus:

psalm or praise song? insect eros? weather forecast?
My dull ears and brain can’t unravel the noises
of my neighbors, though I learn online that false
katydids share songs almost as varied

as their forms: the curved tail crescendo-ing
zit-zit-ZIT like a spotty adolescent; the forked
tail practically tripping—tsip, tsip—over its own song.
Can you pick out the ground crickets? Easily mistaken,

striped, strident—they stridulate so fast, we hear
metallic chirps but not the trills beneath.
And when a person says the world must change
if we are all to survive, what do they hear

in response? Crickets, says the tired joke. As if
we ever heard them, ever noticed the pine tree
cricket hide its spruce-green wings in a tangle
of needles, its sweet song plaintive as sun

sets into night, or ever registered the ghostly-
pale tree cricket trilling its interrupted aria
from the suburban dogwoods lingering
where ancient eastern forests once stood.






Betsy Bolton’s recent work has appeared in The Hopper, New Croton Review, Snapdragon Journal, Gyroscope Review, Lammergeier Magazine, Amaranth Journal, Split Rock Review, Minnow Literary Magazine, Northern Appalachian Review, Notre Dame Review, Stone CanoeThe Rumen, and Ecozon@. Her poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and awarded first place (modern category) in the Helen Schaible 2022 International Sonnet Contest. A chapbook entitled Mouth Art of the Bald-faced Hornet was longlisted for the Kingdoms in the Wild Annual Poetry Prize in 2022, and a full-length collection with the same name is forthcoming with Finishing Line Press in May 2024.