the boy’s sure hands close over the little firefly
cup it in darkness, deposit it into the jar. Once released, the insect
discovers it’s not alone, that there are dozens of its kind
in here as well, flitting against the walls of their prison
deceived by the glass’s transparency, convinced that freedom
is mere inches away.
The jar is alight in the boy’s hands, full of tiny stars
constellations that shift with every step he takes. Tomorrow, the jar
will be full of the dry, brown bodies of dead beetles
long antennae curled against the glass
but tonight, the boy has a jar full of sunshine
will go to sleep with dreams of magic
and of fireflies that never go out.
THE FIRST ATTEMPT
The baby gorilla lies on the table
tiny, furry arms spread like an angel’s. so much
was supposed to happen here that won’t.
in the other room, the new mother chews thoughtfully
on an orange, spitting the seeds out loudly
against the far wall, she does not like seeds. before her
is a tower of offerings: a cluster of small, bruised bananas
oranges, kiwis, sliced apples with the cores removed
all brought by caretakers whose hearts have been broken.
I carefully free the small bundle
From its anchor of web and dust
Search for an end to the strings and knots
That hold it white and indistinguishable.
Further exploration reveals a wing
Perfect and angular and still attached
To a slim body robbed of breath and flutter
Tiny legs curled against its feathered chest.
He steps through the door of the recruitment office
and the doors slam shut behind him and I’m convinced
he will only come out of there again on a gurney
stretched out in a decorated casket, or a small metal box
latched tight to hold in the drama of a single remaining finger bone.
I let my breath out slowly, make it come out
as quiet air, and not the scream
the shriek of anguish all the sounds a mother makes
when told her son is dead.
The word goes out that it’s okay to write about war again
and that, in fact, it’s expected, with the people in charge asking:
Why haven’t the poets been writing about this?
Isn’t this what they’re here for?
Dutifully, the poets pick up their pens to scribble verses
about bombs and destruction and civil unrest
apathy and starvation and the death of small children
until all of the pages are filled with pictures of the dead
until all of the pages are filled with the stories of the dead
pages and pages that will never be read.
Holly Day has taught writing classes at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Tampa Review, SLAB, and Gargoyle, while her recently published books include Nordeast Minneapolis: A History, A Brief History of Stillwater Minnesota, and Ugly Girl.