Lightning Bug Elegies

Lightning Bug Elegies


The creek runs low, across a stream bed of shells and sand.
You cannot whisper its name without a smile.
And the children need not roll up their pant legs,
the frothy water no deeper than toes—
tiger minnows racing across the pool and away from tiny hands.
The willow tree sways with a dignity reserved for royalty
and its leaves sing elegies to the lightning bugs that circle its crown,
living jewels no kingdom’s bounty ever surpass’d.
The sun teeters along the edge of the tree line,
yet the meadowlarks have not gone home just yet.
They call from the grasses of our prairie and praise the summer night.
A bullfrog complains without veracity along the bank,
But turns to silence as the children seek him out.


And the day’s decay is the evening’s reward
when grown-ups cannot remember their age
and watch the Evening Star wink its delight as couples dance.
Watermelons wallow in the moving stream,
waiting for a respite from the children’s antics to spill their treasures.
But the music won’t stop—celestial sounds—notes from the heavens
descend from a transistor radio leaning on a picnic table.
The song a waltz,  summertime, summertime, hidden in each measure’s beat.
The wine is served over shaved ice for the women
The men nip at whisky from flasks out of hip pockets
Lightning bugs sporadically cut in and dance with the women
Hover around ruby lips and freckled cheeks as if to say, “I love you.”
They dazzle but do not alight—their work not done.
The perfection of the sunset still to be told in their mysterious Morse code.


Once when you were young, your parents took you to such a magical place.
The kingdom of the lightning bugs, the bullfrog’s lair—
a place where diamonds mixed with gravel on the stream bed
and little boys caught tadpoles in coffee cans, while girls scolded and cajoled simultaneously.
The night sky was never dark and the dawn came early on the wings of friendly dragons.
Do not forget the song you sang that day, an elegy to the flash of a lightning bug,
Beautiful, but fleeting, in its brilliance—never to illuminate in quite the same glow again.
Yet the festival is still in progress and you can rejoin the fray
Where the birds swoop from the heavens in loop-the-loops
And dogs dance on two legs, smiling at what they know and we do not.
We frolic not nearly enough and the summer is not ours to keep
Remember this kingdom of summer and its sentinels of light
Lightning bugs glitter no more than stars, and summer is but a grin.
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