Stephanie Humphries

Many of this mute ground cricket species

invade my basement apartment

one by one

to die.

First, their movement slows,

then the long jumping legs fall off.

Sometimes there is a stain

of blood or digestive fluids.

They curl up in the end,

one antenna still moving,

smelling, feeling—

lingering, grasping onto here

or already exploring cricket heaven there?

I want them gone,

but I would also like to lessen their suffering,

make it easier for them to pass to the cricket afterlife.

But how?

I thought of playing cricket music

but I don’t know what the chirps mean

and might pick a scary song.

It was my mother I first asked about death

after staring at myself brushing my hair

in my parents’ bedroom mirror.

She told me not to think about it.

When she was keeping so many people alive

as a nurse in small-town nursing homes,

I asked her how she could deal with all the death.

“It’s easier to see someone who has had a full life die

than to work in pediatrics and see children die,”

she replied.

How, I wondered, can a person bear to watch anyone die?

Years later, I regret not being there to hold

my parents’ hands as they passed.

So I just let them die on their own,

then scoop them up,

the hard exoskeleton of the thorax

crunchy in the paper towel,

the hexagonal compound eyes

staring up at me,

the unwilling undertaker

who takes small steps at grasping her own mortality

while reluctantly witnessing the final, slight breaths,

momentarily mourning all the miniature, not so trivial deaths.