Where Have All the Fireflies Gone?

Where Have All the Fireflies Gone?

1
As a small child
I caught fireflies in the summer
because that was natural
for kids my age.

I’d use them as nature’s night light,
marveling at their bioluminescence,
wondering why they seemed
dimmer from my mason jar,

saddened and bewildered
by their slow death
and refusal to eat the grass
I placed in the jar for them.

To this day,
I still have no idea
if fireflies eat grass or not.

Never bothered to do the research.

2
“Hey man.
You play the hand you were dealt.”

That was my boiler-plate response
to anyone who asked about
the state of my first marriage.

It was a flippant, self-mocking
humor-of-the-remanded
simultaneously answering
nothing and everything.

Don’t know why I took
such a resigned stance
on being unhappy, lonely,
and with the wrong person.

Didn’t even try to hide
my dismissive shrug
from inside my mason jar.

I often thought that
if I reshuffled the deck,
I’d someday find the right person,
and that would fix everything.

Simply a matter of finding
the right grass to add, right?

3
Outside right now,
there is a bird singing his little heart out
at the cloud-obscured sunset.

I’m unfamiliar with the tone and cadence,
but it rings of a desolation and isolation
I haven’t heard in a long time.

Its song goes unanswered.

The ebullience of a neighbor’s deck party
partially drowns him out.

Their unnatural laughter
reminds me of a henhouse
agitated into commotion
by an invading fox.

Its cacophony
cancels-out the bird’s efforts.

He soon falls silent,
leaving only the sounds
of the fox-stirred coop,
its revelry soon extinguished by
a spontaneous late spring shower.

Nature always wins.

Now that I’m thinking about it,
I can’t recall the last time I saw a firefly.
I wonder why that is?
***

Day 29 – Salix

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Photo by Stephen Leonardi on Unsplash

Salix

I know the bottom too well. The path beyond my garden, birthed:
I fear it greatly.
It is my birthright: my inheritance.

It is the formless darkness,
Its frustrating absence,
For its expanse outpaces sunlight’s nourishment.

I’ve loved in the dark.
By both touch and muscle-memory
Coarse: I burrow deeper, suckling at your earth.

Or suckling at another’s red clay, urgently,
For when a heart is formed, I follow it to fruition,
Blending, blending.

What nectar you know of that sounds so sweet?
Feel stamen’s stamina, and be healed.
Rooting in fruitless void: finding succulent flesh.

Sunrise finds us intertwined by audacity.
Clinging to sap and stem;
Elongated, deciduous, draping, reaching for more.

Flailing about, numerous cat-o-nines, self-flogged,
Beaten by breezy beauty
We stir the scent of the now: whispering wishes.

Morning light chases darkness: she lurks behind me,
Elusive in plain sight.
Her emptiness mocks me. Or compels me to seek fullness.

I am drunk. I am drunk.
And yet parched, I thirst still, knowing not what I seek.
Your dreams are not mine, yet I still drink of them.

You course through me, I whisper for more.
The breeze carries my voice
Finding nature’s comfort, some mingle with my plea.

Many are just as fearful as me
Or they inhabit their lie;
Ignoring their murmurs of soul’s torment via ripened flesh.

Seasons birth, die, rebirth.
I am rooted, and yet propelled irrevocably towards rot
Is my senescence driving my urgency?

It is the newly-formed heart I chase.
Not the intercrossed sowing
So wondrous in its embrace of fleeting fullness.

From my bones, sketch in charcoal
He cheated the abyss. His flaws, a numerous, loving greed.
He loved. He loved. He loved.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 29 prompt:

Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem based on the Plath Poetry Project’s calendar. Simply pick a poem from the calendar, and then write a poem that responds or engages with your chosen Plath poem in some way.

This one was rather intimidating. While I respect and emulate the greats like Poe, Wild, Hemmingway, Langston Hughes and even Chicago greats like Carl Sandburg and Gwendolyn Brooks, I have always feared Sylvia Plath. She was a unique genius, and emulating her work is a lot like trying to describe the void. I’d much rather look away.

Anyway, the poem I chose was Elm (the April 19 entry), and as I feared, It kind of sucked me in, chewed me up, and spit me out. I didn’t even have time to write my day 30 poem.

Oh well, there’s always tomorrow…

Day 25 – Important Read-Me File: Caring for Your Barry

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Photo by Samuel Scrimshaw on Unsplash

Important Read-Me File: Caring for Your Barry

You’ve decided
to care for a Barry!

You’ve made a unique
and challenging choice,
for not all Barrys are alike,
and this Barry in particular
has some particularly odd bugs,

or as Barry likes to call them,
“features”.

Here are some helpful guidelines
to keep your Barry operational
while minimizing withering glares,
mopey brooding,

and angry muttering
of rude things
under his breath.

Caution: depressed
and highly flammable.

Do not enjoy around
children or pets.

Or other people.

Do not mix with bourbon,
unless you’re eager to learn
the unvarnished truth about him,
yourself, and
that girl he’s secretly crushing on.

Can be rendered inert,
philosophical,
deeply meta,
and rather giggly
if combined with marijuana.

He may also refer to marijuana
as “jazz cigarettes” because
he just heard that squares
called them that in the 60’s
and he can’t stop giggling about it.

It is highly likely that your Barry
is under the influence of
jazz cigarettes at the moment of
creating this third-person,
self-referential missive.

If your Barry wants to tell you
about the path beyond his garden,
do not interrupt him
or tell him you heard this story before.

This can lead to resentful muttering.

But the most important warning:
just be kind – not just to Barry,
but to everyone you encounter
–  because none of this matters
if I’m right and we only live once,

but if I’m right and we only live once,
nothing could be more important than
leading and leaving with kindness.

Thank you for caring for your Barry
no back-sies!
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 25 prompt: “write a poem that takes the form of a warning label . . . for yourself!”

(Full-disclosure: My new job and surviving on three hours of sleep per night had me shuttering the doors early on NaPoWriMo, but one of my most respected poetry friends kicked me in the butt. She said I have poems to write, and so I guess I have a few back-payments to make.)

Day 24 – Elegy of Beloved Disputes

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View from my livingroom  window. (Ignore the trash bins and the ugly Hooptie. It’s my son’s fault they’re in the picture.) 

Elegy of Beloved Disputes

The path beyond my garden
leads to my favorite tree,
bursting with flowers that
remind me of you and

it occurs to me that
you would’ve marveled at
my sweet-scented tree if you
were still alive to smell it.

The sudden reminder of
your absence steals a breath
or two from me, and then
I laugh at the absurdity.

Asthma took your laugh
from me permanently.
It is an affliction
of the lungs, you see?

Had you lived long enough to
fill your lungs with my
beloved tree,

you’d have sided with Wifey,
demanding its removal.

I don’t like confrontation,
but I’d like to think I would
have enjoyed that argument.
***

Every morning on report card day, from kindergarten to third grade, momma would sing this song to me while I was eating my cereal. It was hilarious. It was terrifying. I fucking loved it. 

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 24 prompt:

Today, we’d like to challenge you to write an elegy – a poem typically written in honor or memory of someone dead. But we’d like to challenge you to write an elegy that has a hopefulness to it. Need inspiration? You might look at W.H. Auden’s elegy for Yeats, which ends on a note suggesting that the great poet’s work will live on, inspiring others in years to come. Or perhaps this elegy by Mary Jo Bang, where the sadness is shot through with a sense of forgiveness on both sides.

I’ve written elegies for both parents, and both of my grandmothers passed away last year, so I wasn’t exactly eager for this prompt. Still, I couldn’t resist the challenge of adding some hopefulness to a poem about loss. Best to keep it short though.

Day 18 – She Still Sees

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Photo by Peter Forster on Unsplash

She Still Sees

You are the Truth
locked tight in my pocket;
promise kept by my fortuity.

You linger patiently,
meeting my frailties with loyalty
pouring into my cracks.
You stay,
voice soothing my raspy song,
facing, leaning into my calm.

Your will
driving intent to fill my silent plea.
I feel this,
your tacit strain
as you heal my wounds.

You’re afraid to leave
without securing my trust
where I live on abyss’s edge.
You steadily shatter delusions
trumpeting your presence
crossing my boundaries.

But I am not here
can’t be found in the light;
cocooned twilight.
You join our hips
expanding as I contract,
filling void with familiar
you still see me where I live.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 18 prompt:

Our prompt for the day (optional as always) isn’t exactly based in revision, but it’s not exactly not based in revision, either. It also sounds a bit more complicated than it is, so bear with me! First, find a poem in a book or magazine (ideally one you are not familiar with). Use a piece of paper to cover over everything but the last line. Now write a line of your own that completes the thought of that single line you can see, or otherwise responds to it. Now move your piece of paper up to uncover the second-to-last line of your source poem, and write the second line of your new poem to complete/respond to this second-to-last line. Keep going, uncovering and writing, until you get to the first line of your source poem, which you will complete/respond to as the last line of your new poem. It might not be a finished draft, but hopefully it at least contains the seeds of one.

I wasn’t too keen on this prompt, so I tweaked it a bit. Instead of finding an unfamiliar poem/poet, I found an extremely familiar one to me. I chose a poet I admire, a frequent collaborator, and a good friend, Tre. The poem I used as a reference is titled The One I Spared. I encourage you to head over and read her exquisite work.

Yesterday, me and Wifey traveled from Whistler back home, and today I had a talk therapy session, so I’m a day behind in my poetry. Perhaps I can squeeze out another one later.

Day 10 – Vertigo(ne)

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Vertigo(ne)

The path beyond
my garden
stretches beyond
the footfalls
of stone pathways
elongating
with the passing
years where I
can no longer see
where I’ve been
and yet
the destination
remains mucked
by the mist
the morning dew
kisses me awake
and makes
breathing easier
where the words
fall forth,
making the footfalls
easier to manage
and so I travel
forward forever
knowing that soon
there will be no
destination,
no path, no
waypoint home,
and soon
not even a home;
only the words remain,
and much sooner
than later
they too will fall.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 10 prompt: “write a poem of simultaneity – in which multiple things are happing at once.” I don’t think I did it right. Meh. It will have to do. I’m tired, and I’m going to bed.

Day 9 – Of Smeared Rainbows

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Photo by Matheus Queiroz on Unsplash

Of Smeared Rainbows

The path
beyond my
unkempt garden
led me to a black
butterfly fluttering
on fearless currents,
his plain beauty
apparent
even
in morning
shade before the
first glint of rising
sunlight kissed corners of
his wings, igniting
reality
with a
firestorm
of hues.

He is hunted,
snatched from the sky,
knitter of rainbows, felled
killed in the dayglow
by the Anglo-
All-American calico
everyone knows well,
who left it smeared
on the pavement
after becoming bored
from batting the life
from the bite-sized
black body.

The dead butterfly
never even knew he was
being hunted down.

He was
probably altogether
unfamiliar with the very concept,
as he was preoccupied with
feeding on milkweed
and finding a mate.

I wish I could explain it to him.

It would probably blow his tiny mind
to know that some creatures hunt and kill,
shortening a life to extend their own.

I wonder
how he would react
to learning that
some creatures
also hunt and kill
at random
because they’re just
passing the time,
as was the case
with his chaotic,
chubby
calico assailant.

I can’t talk to butterflies,
as we haven’t yet broken
the language barrier.

I don’t know where
that breakthrough falls
on the scientific scale.

I can’t see it ranking
up there with
reversing climate change,
curing cancer, or
perfecting erection pills.

So, I won’t be talking
to butterflies
anytime soon.

I won’t try talking with
that butterfly in particular
because he’s dead.

Smeared on the pavement
by a well-fed, bored calico cat.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 9 prompt: “write a poem in which something big and something small come together.”

Day 8 – Eating the Crow

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Photo by Peter Hershey on Unsplash

Eating the Crow

The path beyond my garden rounds a bend
trending down it descends into a valley
where public servants serve and
health practitioners practice, and

I run the gauntlet of penalty lights
connecting me to society
like so many decompression locks.

The clock strikes the mark,
but still seeking a spot to park,
I am overdue,

which threatens to undo my resolve
because who can find time to shine
when one is five minutes behind?

Best to resign; forget the whole thing,
forfeit.

This wasn’t supposed to rhyme,
sloppy or otherwise.

I should quit this too,
but I didn’t quit then, and
so I won’t quit now.

I didn’t quit weeks ago,
when after staring into a void,
seeing the cosmos, but no reason
connecting me to its purpose,

nothing grounding me into
what could be construed as a place
within this chaotic nonsense,
I sought a shaman,

but only found mental health professionals
that refused to be summoned via
passive incantations;

I was compelled to actively pick up the phone,
verbally admitting my stigma to a stranger.

I did balk at this at first.
It wasn’t quitting; it was a
three-week mental break

from this mentally
counter-intuitive method
of seeking mental help.

But after picking up the phone and
admitting to the disembodied voice that
I needed someone to help me with the void,

the space between she and me and

between me and every other living thing
she scattered colored talisman on a map,
pointing me to the sacred realms nearest me.

I chose a female therapist with an
extremely therapeutic-sounding name
within five minutes of the path beyond
my garden, and so my arriving five

minutes late was actually an impressive
feat of procrastination, even for me,
and so I wanted to quit and eat the co-pay,
but I ate the crow instead, owning my tardiness.

She didn’t seem to mind, which pleased me,
proving that she was in fact
a mental health professional.

But then she wept bitterly at
the telling of my origin story,
which led me to question her
professionalism, my

tenuous place in the universe
unmoored yet again, or still.

Against my better judgment,
I liked opening to her,
so I signed up for a second session,

which I soon cancelled,

as mandated by the laws of seeking
someone to help make sense of things,
she is only available when I’m not.

But I didn’t quit and that alone was legit.

Perhaps when I’m ready to stretch myself again,
I’ll grow more.

Perhaps seeking my personal shaman
is its own medicine.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 8 prompt:

Let’s take a leaf from Shelley’s book, and write poems in which mysterious and magical things occur. Your poem could take the form of a spell, for example, or simply describe an event that can’t be understood literally. Feel free to incorporate crystal balls, fauns, lightning storms, or whatever seems fierce and free and strange. Poetry is like that (at least when you’ve been reading Shelley!) If you’re in search of inspiration, maybe you’ll find it in this poem by Louis Untermeyer, or this one by Kathleen Graber.

I liked this prompt.

Day 7 – Fork

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Photo by Oliver Roos on Unsplash

Fork

The path beyond my garden
forks at impossible angles
like the leading edge
of a switchback where I can
climb or descend,
should I choose one.

On the high path
beckons a
wood nymph;

the low path is guarded by
a cat darker than
light’s absence.

As I approach the switchback fork,
the nymph squeals with delight.

“Follow me,” she squeaks,
“into the sunlight! Ahead lies
treasures of impeccable sights!”

I take a step, but
soon paused to observe the cat,
who shrugs and licks his scrotum,
nonplussed, matter-of-fact.

“I’d go with her if I were you,”
he said between luxurious
unhurried licks.

“Down here, there is only truth
and the sad epiphanies
one can only obtain
through pain; it is the

hard-won knowledge
only attained by loss.

“This path is not for the timid.”

The nymph grabbed my hand with a jerk.
“Up here!” she cried, “on this trail,
no one grows old or dies!

“Your mom is alive and well
and rational and laughing!

“Your not-dead-from-cancer dad
is mighty proud of
all the mighty things
you never did or said, but
imagined mightily
inside your head!

“Your children aren’t disappointed
by your disengaged inertia!

“Racism, jingoism, war,
famine, pestilence don’t exist
up here!

“Follow me, and it
will all disappear,
enveloped by your will!

“What will be will only be
if only you dream it so!”

I glance back at the cat,
who just sat and shrugged.

“I won’t pretend to compete
with the little fairy up there.

“Down here, there is truth;
only the reality
of what is, and tough
conversations leading
to more sad truths.

“You may learn new things
about you that you may not like,
only to find that
you’ve always known them.

“Reckonings don’t come with good vibes.
That’s why they’re called reckonings.

“But there is knowledge
in great abundance”

It’s the same daily routine,
and I follow along,
playing my part as if guided
by some sacred ritual.

I always “let” the nymph
drag me along the high road,
not just because it’s easier,

but I could take the path
a billion times and it always
leads me somewhere new.

But upon return,
I accompany the cat
upon the low road,

knowing it always leads home.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo Day 7 prompt:

In our interview, Kyle Dargan suggests writing out a list of all of your different layers of identity. For example, you might be a wife, a grandmother, a Philadelphian, a dental assistant, a rabid Phillies fan, a seamstress, retiree, agnostic, cancer survivor, etc.. These are all ways you could be described or lenses you could be viewed through. Now divide all of those things into lists of what makes you feel powerful and what makes you feel vulnerable. Now write a poem in which one of the identities from the first list contends or talks with an identity from the second list. This might turn out to be kind of a “heavy” exercise, emotionally, but I hope you will find the results enlightening.

Indeed, that did sound like a “heavy” exercise, and as much confessional poetry as I write, this one didn’t appeal to me too much. When I start making lists of things that I am, that list inevitably turns dark for me. I still did the prompt, though I skimmed the surface, opting not to dig much deeper.

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Day 5 – Zion, the Midnight Tree Goddess

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Photo by Alessio Lin on Unsplash

Zion, the Midnight Tree Goddess

There is night emerging beyond our garden path standing near Zion
her branches end starvation of tidal-locked, structured souls
in her drunkenness, in her leaves, we grow old, regaling our wonder

There is night emerging beyond our garden: lavender scented foresight
in deeds defined as barren, fallen branches lie apart from her sullen trunk
night reveals, night compels gorging on unripen fruit in solitude

Last stand under stars of this cosmos. Ruminating over severed gardens
one last man demands the wooden goddess to tell him of the other souls
in the world. In gruff, even monotone, even miserly tone came her reply

Dancing the same, even, rooted hug-and-sway. She let him know that
her severed night emerged beyond our understanding, even she, Zion: to deceive them
is to be stranded among the river of stars, to intersect brooding night alone

Paralyzed by light-governed dark, synapses break like glass vessels
alone then / alone now, lonely then / lonely now
untended as broken branches.
***

Written for NaPoWriMo’s Day 5 prompt:

Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem that, like the work in Translucence, reacts both to photography and to words in a language not your own. Begin with a photograph. Now find a poem in a language you don’t know (here’s a good place to look!) Ignore any accompanying English translation (maybe cover it up, or cut-and-paste the original into a new document). Now start translating the poem into English, with the idea that the poem is actually “about” your photograph. Use the look and feel of the words in the original to guide you along as you write, while trying to describe your photograph. It will be a bit of a balancing act, but hopefully it will lead to new and beautiful (and possibly very weird) places.

Weird places indeed! That was certainly challenging (and at times frustrating), but I’m glad I stuck with it and I’m pretty chill with the result.

The poem I chose is titled, rather fittingly, A Big Bang, by Runa Svetlikova. To the surprise of absolutely no one, the actual English translation is far more optimistic than my fake one.