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  • By Stewart Burke

The Cricket Sings of an Absent Lover

The cricket sings of an absent lover’s

approach, each footfall tolled in harmony. 

One must be caged for the luck of others.


The cricket’s tune says wet clouds will hover;

bow-and-fiddle his file-and-scraper be,

the cricket sings of an absent lover.


The man of the house, his wife, his mother

cheer when chirps convey a rain of specie:

One must be caged for the luck of others.


When days lengthen, couples shake their covers

as crickets strike up a brisker melody.

The cricket sings of an absent lover,


though secretly not that of another,

but of his mate who mourns him silently.

One must be caged for the luck of others


who savor the sound of his monody, 

their pleasure his lasting indignity.

The cricket sings of an absent lover.

One must be caged for the luck of others.

Stewart Burke lives in Arlington, VA. Retired from one of those ABC agencies, beyond writing poetry he enjoys traveling abroad and studying and teaching martial arts with his wonderful daughter. He most delights in reading in translation the classical poetry of the Near East, the Subcontinent, China, and Japan. Burke particularly savors the works in translation of Li Qingzhao, Shmuel ha-Nagid, and Hafiz. William Empson and Theodore Wratislaw are two of his favorite English-language poets.


Aug 20, 2023

I've always been a fan of the villanelle. This one manages to put a new twist on the common villanelle theme of lost or unrequited love by examining a creature in the third person. I enjoyed that shift of perspective. It is also quite touching how the cricket is treated as a sacrificial victim -- not an analogy that I would have expected, but one that you make work in the poem. Great work.

Sep 05, 2023
Replying to

I am unsure if it is “cricket” to note that Adam actually gave me some sound advice where this poem is concerned, and which I subsequently incorporated into the instant poem. In any event, the poem started when, feeling a trifle sad one August day, I threw open the windows and sat out on the terrace to listen to an evening thunderstorm. Hearing the incessant chirps of a cricket outside, I googled “cricket” and “rain” to determine if there might be a connection. I came across an article about the semiotics of insects in the state of Bahia, where I learned that by tradition in that part of Brazil, crickets were variously believed to foretell the approach of an absent…

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