We used to keep our lightning bugs in jars
with holes punched through the lids so they’d have air.
They’d creep along the sides, their yellow stars
dimming to green in protest of our care.

To woo dark females hidden in the grass,
the bugs we failed to catch would gently rise
like champagne bubbles in a twilit glass,
filling the air with soft light and surprise.

Why did we want them if they couldn’t give
the same delight when captured as when free?
We must have known they hadn’t long to live,
yet, charmed by them, we couldn’t let them be.

Beyond our grasp, erratic bats would weave
the spaces between maple crowns together
while clouds turned purple and the wind’s long sleeve
swept our flushed cheeks, suggesting rougher weather.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 23 Number 1, on page 31
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