This Is the Time of Grasshoppers and All That I See Is Dying

By Adrian C. Louis b. 1946
Colleen,
this is the time of grasshoppers
and all that I see is dying except
for my virulent love for you.
 
The Cowturdville Star-Times,
which usually has a typo
in every damn column,
says the grasshoppers this year
“are as big as Buicks” and
that’s not bad, but then we
get two eight-point pages
of who had dinner with whom
at the bowling alley café and
who went shopping at Target
in Rapid City and thus the high
church of Adrian the Obscure is sacked.
 
Even my old Dylan tapes are fading,
becoming near-comic antiques.
The grasshoppers are destroying
our yard and they’re as big as
my middle finger saluting God.
The grass is yellow. The trees
look like Agent Orange has hit
but it’s only the jaw-work of those
drab armored insects who dance
in profusion and pure destruction.
 
Sweet woman, dear love of my life,
when you’re not angry and sputtering
at everything and everyone, you
become so childlike, so pure.
Your voice seems to have grown
higher recently, almost a little-girl pitch.
 
Today, like most days, I have you
home for your two-hour reprieve
from the nursing home prison.
We’re sitting at the picnic table in
the backyard staring at the defoliation
of lilacs, brain matter, and honeysuckle.
You’re eating a Hershey Bar and
a crystal glob of snot is hanging
from your nose.
I reach over, pinch it off,
and wipe it on my jeans.
You thrust the last bite
of chocolate into my mouth
as a demented grasshopper
jumps onto your ear.
You scream. I howl
with laughter until you do too.
Happiness comes with a price.
 
This is the times of grasshoppers
and all that I see is dying except
for my swarming love for you.
 
Last night on PBS some
lesioned guy being screwed to death
by legions of viral invisibility
blurted the great cliché of regret:
I wish I could be twenty
again and know what
I know now …
 
My own regrets are equally foolish.
And, I wonder, how the hell
is it I’ve reached a place
where I’d give what’s left
of my allotment of sunsets
and frozen dinners
for some unholy replay
of just one hour in some nearly
forgotten time and place?
 
Darling,
in the baked soil of the far west,
I first saw the ant lions, those
hairy little bugs who dug funnel
traps for ants in the dry earth.
At twelve, looking over the edge
of one such funnel surrounded by
a circle of tiny stones in the sand,
I aimed a beam of white light
from my magnifying glass
and found I could re-create
a hell of my own accord.
 
Poverty and boredom
made me cruel early on.
The next summer while digging
postholes I found a cache of
those grotesque yellow bugs
we called Children of the Earth
so I piled matches atop them
and barbecued their ugliness.
I was at war with insects.
 
In my fifteenth summer I got
covered with ticks in the sagebrush
and that fall I nervously lost my cherry
in a cathouse called the Green Front
and got cursed with crabs but that’s
not what I want to sing about
at all… come on now.
This is no bug progression.
This ain’t no insect sonata.
 
This is only misdirection,
a sleight of hand upon the keys
and the unholy replay of just
one hour in some nearly
forgotten time and place
that I’d like to return to
will remain myth or maybe
a holy, tumescent mystery.
 
And let’s not call
these bloodwords
POETRY or a winter count
of desperate dreams
when reality is much simpler.
 
Colleen,
I swear to Christ
this is the time of grasshoppers
and all that I see is dying except
for my sparkling love for you.

Adrian C. Louis, "This Is the Time of Grasshoppers and All That I See Is Dying" from Bone & Juice. Copyright © 2001 by Adrian C. Louis.  Reprinted by permission of Northwestern University Press.

Source: Bone & Juice (Northwestern University Press, 2001)

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Poet Adrian C. Louis b. 1946

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

Subjects Living, Growing Old, Marriage & Companionship, Time & Brevity

Biography

A member of the Lovelock Paiute tribe, writer Adrian C. Louis grew up in Nevada and earned a BA and an MA in creative writing from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. He has worked as a journalist and an editor and was a cofounder of the Native American Journalists Association. His novel Skins (1995) was made into a movie of the same title in 2002, directed by Chris Eyre. Louis has also published a collection of short . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Growing Old, Marriage & Companionship, Time & Brevity

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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