Ritual

By William Ogden Haynes

 

At dusk on a humid summer evening

we prepared the Mason jars,

lids pierced eight times in a circle

with an ice pick,

and added three fistfuls of grass

for comfort.

As darkness fell, beacons in the air

lured us to the front sidewalk

where we snatched them in flight.

We could see them blinking

through our cupped hands,

as we placed them in the jars,

fumbling with lids

to avoid escape.

When it was fully dark,

our jars contained exactly fifty fireflies,

and our smiles were lit by the pulses

from the glowing glass lanterns.

My cousin would always catch

one final firefly

which was thrown to the ground

where he would step on it,

sliding his shoe

in a slow backward movement

leaving a trail of phosphorescent

yellow-green light

glowing on the sidewalk.

We would see it fade to black

before going inside

to watch the twinkling jars

as we fell asleep.

In the morning

their lights had extinguished.

Ignored in the jars,

the fireflies lay dying,

and outside,

a narrow black arc on the sidewalk

was barely visible

in the light of day.

 

 

_____________

William Ogden Haynes is a poet from Alabama and has published poetry in literary journals such as California Quarterly and PIF Magazine. His chapbook entitled Five Thousand Days has been accepted for publication in 2011 by Negative Capability Press in Mobile, AL. He has been invited to read his work at several arts festivals in the state and believes that the mark of a good poem is that, at the end, people feel glad they read or heard it. In a prior life he taught speech-language pathology at Auburn University and authored six major professional textbooks.

 


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