Suzannah V. Evans

Suzannah V. Evans

A Cicada Sings, an Ant Brings

After the fable by La Fontaine, after Aesop 

shuck-shuck shush-shush sh-sh-drr
shh-drr shika-shika-shika-shika shhh

all summer, I sing
shade-hidden, vibrating

on my abdomen

eyeing traces 
of the sea’s rustlings



                                                                                                            gather                specks

                                                                                                            trails     of   
                                                                                                            p h e r o m o n e s 

                                                                                                            b r e a d c r u m b s 



                                                                                                            work hard, work hard



I say with the maracas of my body

beating my lacy wings
saying all sorts of things

to the Klein blue sky


                                                                                                                         n o 

                                                                                                            m u s i c 

                                                                                                            travelling /

                                                                                                            gathering / 

                                                                                                            work hard, work hard




s-s-s-s-s-sh-sh-sh-sh- [pause]


I may be cryptic, hard to see
but by the sea

I buckle and unbuckle 
my corrugated exoskeleton – the ant heckles – 

and I susurrate
to the sell-out

theatre of strollers


                                                                                                            h                      a



singing with my whole body, the whole hull
of my body 

singing so that all I do is sing to the sweet

and the sweet wind 
takes my song

to the ossicles of passers-by 
and the tiny feet of ants on the ground

tread softly, ant


                                                                                                                        i t 
                                                                                                                        t a k e s 
                                                                                                                        s o 
                                                                                                                        l on g 
                                                                                                                        t o 
                                                                                                                        g a t h e r 
                                                                                                                        f o o d 
                                                                                                                        o f c o u r s e 
                                                                                                                        t h e r e ’ s 
                                                                                                                        n    o       n      e
                                                                                                                        t o 
                                                                                                                        s p a r e 
                                                                                                                        f o r 
                                                                                                                        t h o s e 
                                                                                                                        w h o 
                                                                                                                        s i n g  




Note: This speech sequence is written after la Fontaine’s retelling of Aesop’s fable ‘The Grasshopper and the Ant’, in which a hungry grasshopper, who has spent the summer singing, begs for food from an ant and is refused. The moral relates to the idea of hard work and forward planning. La Fontaine’s telling, however, recasts the tale as one about compassion, in which the grasshopper is a sort of artist, valued for her song. Questions around the role of artists in society seem particularly urgent now, in the context of a global pandemic where some organisations and people are given support over others.

SUZANNAH V. EVANS is the winner of a 2020 Northern Writers’ Award from New Writing North. Her poems appear in Carcanet’s New Poetries VIII and her second poetry pamphlet Brightwork is forthcoming with Guillemot Press in May 2021.