Poem: Fireflies

Do you remember when
                we were kids?

At dusk, climbing trees,
                oh, all the fireflies.

Hundreds, everywhere bright orbs,
                and we wondered what they did.

From our perch high in those mossy oaks,
                they looked to us natures own fireworks.

Mom would yell time for dinner
                and we would pretend not to hear.

We waited all afternoon to gaze upon fireflies,
                and we tried anything to stay near.

Went and told all kinds of white lies,
                to stay a few minutes more in the yard.

Then one day we heard about trapping
                them in jars.

So we hid in the bushes waiting and soon we had five,
                but their light didn’t got far.

Dad asked us to free them, but we talked back
“they’re ours!”

Do you remember when those fireflies died?
                Oh how we cried.

We learned about selfishness and greed,
                how people will forget and think not of others’ needs.

Now brother, when I’m home for the holidays,
                the only bright orbs are Christmas lights,
                whose creation are tied to yet more destruction.

Now there are no fireflies to see;
                but in their absence I’m able to recall the sight
                of a jar filled with dead flies,
                that used to be all the wonder we would ever need.
               

When I was growing up we lived on the edge of a wildlife refugee with nothing but swamp past our backdoor for 20 miles. I remember you could look across the pasture at dusk and stand witness to a silent fireworks show. Fireflies would be swarming the tall grasses. Sometimes I would try to run through them, causing them to fly off, blinking yellow as they hurried away. I don’t remember the year they started dwindling, nor the year they never returned. But I remember asking myself where all the fireflies had gone.

It wasn’t hard to find the answer. Humans, with our insatiable appetite for perceived perfection, are managing to erase countless species from Earth’s roster. Pesticides and herbicides are responsible for the extinction or endangerment of untold numbers of creatures. We just gotta have that catalog-looking lawn or bug free garden, no expense spared. I wonder if my family, while spraying the edges of the creek with chemicals, in a lazy attempt to avoid physical effort trimming the grass, was responsible for killing off the fireflies around our house.

We live in an age of radical change. Mankind has leapt and bounded our way forward to technological heights that few could have dreamed. Our ability to control the Earth has never been greater. We constructed a global society that is united in a common goal to create and sustain progress. The farthest reaches of Patagonia are now connected to Siberia. Yet the Earth has fallen ill with our success. Our undaunted progress has polluted the air, land, and water. Species are becoming extinct. The oceans are acidifying, the fish are shrinking and across the board our brother and sister creatures are diminishing or gone on to become history.

Up in the Southern Appalachians you can still see fireflies. The area around my outpost by the Sumter National Forest hasn’t been as rough on their lights. Now as I go to bed at night, I look out past my mosquito netting walls and once more gaze at nature’s own silent fireworks.

P.S. Fireflies have returned to my old swamp!