Cicada and Mantis

You are known to us by your choral song,
The clicks and buzzes of an insect throng.
Hidden in darkness, a collective hum
Consumes attention like a temple gong.

You are not known to capture an eardrum.
Rather, you’re thought to be praying by some;
Bent fore-legs clasped, such a penitent pose
Belies beheading pests as a custom.

Your kinds disappear—why? Nobody knows.
Perhaps to escape life’s foreordained woes.
But no matter where—how deep—you might flee,
Sunken mud burrows don’t long deter foes.

Preying, you ambush the startled quarry,
Snaring them in movements too quick to see.
Then, spiked legs clasped tight, you bite off its head,
Dropping a carcass where lifeblood should be.

You always return (though foes want you dead)
Leaving the dirt and the skin that you shed;
But earth has revolved. Time hasn’t stood still.
All has regressed as you slept in your bed.

Some of us fear it’s your nature to kill,
Though most choose to look away from what’s real.
Think spiraling head; think exotic eyes;
Think prayerful shape—not the blood that you spill.

Cicada, you must elect to be wise,
For the Mantis sets your world as its prize!
All is as it was; your hum just soothes lies—
A narcotic drone can’t shield your demise!

 

Ode to Jury Service (Pindaric)

“On behalf of the Judges of the Superior Court, I want you to know that your contribution to the administration of justice in Orange County is valued and appreciated.”—David H. Yamasaki, Jury Commissioner

 

The Turn

I start to sweat when the summons arrives,
Knowing this duty is not for the weak;
Though not as fearsome as broadswords or knives,
The calling carries a baleful mystique.

For there’s a chance one will be adopted
Into the Moirai’s family of fate,
Sisters and brothers, though of different blood,
Joining minds to create a future state.

And the duration may be long
(the time for most is brief),
So even though it might seem wrong,
This summons conjures grief.

 

The Counter-Turn

Still, for those summoned, the choices are clear:
Request a delay, or just bravely go
(Five thousand dollars if you don’t appear),
And pray you’ll be freed while the sun sits low.

And know it’s noble to serve in this way;
Our very system relies on your pains.
And, while, yes, it’s inconvenient, you may
Learn something weighty, or otherwise gain.

So, the chance you’ll be picked is small
(You might be home by noon),
And having nobly met the call,
You’ll nurse your afternoon.

 

The Stand

Thus, with an ambivalent mind, I went
To face my long-awaited jury time.
Like a soldier who for others is sent,
I entered the fray for another’s crime.

And like a mere conscript, I lost my name,
Becoming digits: one-thirty-nine.
Soon after sitting, the feared summons came,
So downstairs I trudged, in one anxious line.

C-109: This was the place
All our numbers would test
For duty on an unknown case,
A test where failure is best.

 

The Turn

The lawyers put us through paces like beasts,
Sifted through the thoughts in our minds like sand;
Some were dismissed, had to give up their seats,
Smiling like children at Disneyland.

As new juror numbers were read, I could
Feel my heart pound. Would my own name be said?
I should welcome this chance; I knew I should,
But I listened with my mind filled with dread.

Nine numbers read—I had escaped—
Surely, my tour was done.
With how this jury was shaped,
I’d soon bask in the sun!

 

The Counter-Turn

Yet, I had not won. The prosecutor
Accepted the twelve, but the defense balked,
Dismissed four he had accepted before,
As I sat in my seat, saddened and shocked.

Then, their replacements, at once lost their minds,
Forgetting English or growing unfair
To public servants of various kinds.
It seemed dishonesty suffused the air.

The judge released them, clearly mad;
She knew the folks had lied,
But what could she do? It was sad
How truth could be defied.

 

The Turn

I practiced some excuses in my brain,
Fearing the next reading would capture me;
I measured my breathing, tried to keep sane,
But suspected this was my destiny.

Thud! My heart sounded at one-thirty-eight;
Thud! It resounded at one-forty-four;
Each pause hung in the air like ghostly weight;
I clenched my fists, braced for what was in store.

Nine numbers were read by the court,
None again matched my own,
I felt besieged inside some fort,
Fearing a fate unknown.

 

The Counter-Turn

The defense lawyer stood to question these new
Recruits, his lips curled in smarmy pretext;
He approached the chairs, exuding virtue,
While gauging faces for signs of subtext.

When he asked one woman about her views,
She lost composure and burst into tears
(though, call me cynical, it seemed a ruse),
Which earned her freedom but increased my fears.

This was ridiculous, I thought,
That lies could earn reward.
Fate now appeared a juggernaut,
But I kept up my guard.

 

The Stand

I squeezed the arms of this old wooden chair,
And took breaths like a mother in labor.
I muttered a long, sotto voce prayer,
“Please, don’t let me be called to replace her!”

While I was absorbed with my pieties,
I did not notice no new name was called;
Then, like a king observing his armies,
I watched the jury maneuvers, enthralled.

As before, the People said, “yes,”
To the current jury mix,
But Defense stopped playing chess,
And accepted the picks!

 

The Stand

Oh, fears I felt when I entered the door
That morning of service burst from my soul
In cathartic release; it had been war,
But I had survived, my body still whole.

Now, leaving the courthouse, something had changed:
The sun seemed brighter; the jasmine more sweet,
Like chairs at a banquet were rearranged,
And I was awarded the highest seat!

With great relish, I raised the form,
Which formalized the act.
The nobleness I did perform
Came with this artifact.

 

Exodus

So, let’s commemorate that blessed day
When I bravely served our Democracy
Through jury service on a warm mid-May.
Oh, I stood for justice when some might flee!

Yes. But there were others who served the cause,
Some, in fact, who gave far greater than us—
Days, weeks, of freedom to maintain our laws,
Raising up Truth like Turtle or Atlas.

It’s no mean achievement, it’s true,
To overcome the fear
Jury service gives me and you—
I pray I’m skipped next year!

 

Ron L. Hodges is an English teacher and poet who lives in Orange County, California. His works have appeared in The Road Not Taken, Ancient Paths, Calvary Cross, and The Society of Classical Poets Journal 2015 and 2016. He won the Society’s prestigious Annual Poetry Competition in 2016.

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2 Responses

  1. ben

    I read this poem set throughout the day yesterday and today. This morning. It’s a wonderful set of poems. I am looking forward to each new post. This site has helped me see how poetry is a part of our regular lives and it shows me the true and wonderful nature of even mundane life itself. This having to do with the pure nature o these specific poems as well. Great job well done Ron. Thank you.

    Reply

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