Jun 18 • 6M

A Cloud of Grasshoppers

a poem

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Poetry, fiction, and essays by Sherman a alexie
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In 1986, there was a spring break
Invasion of grasshoppers
In Billings, Montana.
Some ridiculous number
Of those insects—
30 or 40 per square foot.
I crunched across
A parking lot to buy beer

At a convenience store.
Later that night, terrified,
Alone, drunk, lost, I ran toward
An orange light—a beacon—
On the other side of an empty field.
How many grasshoppers
Did I kill as I chased
Salvation? Dozens upon

Dozens, I would guess.
But it didn’t matter.
Those grasshoppers
Were as endless as time.
Later, after a blackout,
I found myself sitting
In the backseat
Of a cop car. Was I under

Arrest? I didn’t know.
I asked the cop what
Happened and he said
That he’d found me
Sitting on a curb.
The cop said
I was shouting
About the hordes

Of grasshoppers.
I asked the cop if
I was going to jail
And he said no,
He was taking me back
To my friend’s house.
His parents called us,
The cop said. They said

You’d run away
From a basement party.
They said you were
Crying. They said
You were afraid. They said
You weren’t dangerous.
They said you were sad.
And so the cop drove me

To my friend’s house, where
I stumbled up the stairs
And passed out on the carpet
In the attic TV room.
Hours and hours later,
I woke to the Red Hot
Chili Peppers on the stereo.
I’d pissed and shat

My pants. My shirt
Was painted
With dead grasshoppers.
I pulled pieces
Of dead grasshoppers
From my hair.
An inch of dead
Grasshoppers was stuck

To the soles
Of my basketball shoes.
Too ashamed to face
My friend and his family,
I pretended to be asleep
For hours and hours more
Until, finally, my friend
And his mother walked

Into the room. You need help,
The mother said to me.
I know, I said. But it took me
Five more years to get
Sober. And I’ve been
Sober ever since.
But, a few times over
The years, I’ve dreamed

About that night.
And, in those dreams
I trip and fall in that empty
Field, close my eyes,
And take my last breath—
Another Indian dead
In the Montana dirt.
But my body is never

Found. Instead,
The grasshoppers 
Lift me into the night sky
And deliver me
To an afterlife
Where no human
Has ever been. 
I'm lonely in heaven—

A spiritual oxymoron.
But, of course,
I’m still alive.
I was rescued that night,
As I’ve been saved
Many other times.
I’m here, mostly coherent,
Because of the love

Of family and friends
And strangers.
It’s hard to believe
That I’ve earned 
And deserve
This grace and love. 
And it’s easy
To conceive 

Of a life where,
Unmedicated
And abandoned,
I live crazily
On the streets.
I’ve got cousins
Who disappeared
Into the maw of this

Or that city.
I could be like them.
But, look at me,
I’ve become
The orange light
And the Indian
Holding that light.
And, as I write

This poem, I realize
That I’ve encountered
Only a handful
Of grasshoppers
In the decades since
That Montana night.
Have the grasshoppers
Been hiding

From me? What is
The meaning of grasshoppers?
I don’t know.
But let’s pretend
That grasshoppers
Were the first creatures
Created by God.
Let’s assume that

Every person was built
From the lovely wings
Of grasshoppers.
It’s difficult to think
Of grasshoppers
As beautiful,
Just as it’s difficult 
To think of humans

as beautiful.
But look at us.
We are gorgeous.
We are sin and forgiveness.
We darken the sky
With our collective flight.
We are unified in our hungers.
We swarm this life.