Living in the Body of a Firefly

by Laurie Byro
Desert Moon Review
2nd Place, August 2008
Judged by Tony Barnstone

Cotton mouthed, hung over, I wake up in my sooty dress
somehow ashamed to be seen in the utter waste

of daylight. The barbecue with all those mint juleps
on the verandah was intense but I strayed too long on the edge

of a glass. I long for a quiet train trestle, wood and paint
chipping off, not those city lights where I am one of millions.

I’m not fooled by the low murmurings of the river,
cattails to luxuriate in, but danger in the deep-throated

baritone of frogs. Damselflies are entirely self-involved
and bossy, known to eat out of their own behinds. Never mind,

there’s safety in numbers. A neighbor has an easy split
in a porch screen and as I’m on a tear of wild nights

before I die, I’ve set my sights on their cathedral ceiling.
In the sway of tall grasses his youngest cups her hands

around me to pray. I am coveted in the moist chapel of fingers.
Tonight, I’ll hang around until they are all half lidded-drowsy.

I’ll skitter down to her favorite blanket where she’ll wish
upon me like I am the last star falling, the last creature on earth.

I was engaged by this character who wakes in the waste of daylight in her sooty dress, partied out, smoked over, yet dreams herself a firefly leaving the city lights to be a light in the country, caught in the chapel of a child’s cupped hands, a star falling to her at night, a fairy wish. Better that than to be a damselfly, “self-involved / and bossy, known to eat out of their own behinds.” It’s magical, and utterly romantic, or more accurately, Romantic, in its division of life into innocence and experience, country and city, childhood and adulthood. As a critic I read back in grad school critic said, “Romantic poetry is a long walk into the sublime, and a short walk back.” Who can really write a Romantic poem today and get away with it? Something about this poem’s assured movement, its magical images, its tenderness, allows me to like it, because there will always be a Romantic in poetry, and the only question is the one that the moderns (especially Frost, Williams, Yeats, and Stevens) posed themselves: how to renew the Romantic impulse in a world in which the machines have won and the country has retreated to city parks and potted plants? --Tony Barnstone