Luminescence

Luminescence October 3, 2011

On the way home, hundreds of fireflies.

They flicker like your memory of Bennington,

the poetry readings at night in the barn. Crossing

the field of grasses, they were everywhere, their

abdomens glowing. They hibernate like us over

the long winter, some for years. Some burrow

underground. Others find safety in the bark of

trees. We’re all little glow worms holding out

for spring. But the night grasses at Bennington,

there you found the light in your belly. It glowed

in your eyes. I’ve learned that fireflies emit their

light by oxidizing a pigment called luceferin, after

Lucifer, the light-bringer. It’s unclear who named

this. Is it a dark warning against the intoxications

of light? It’s said that Caravaggio prepared his can-

vases with a powder of fireflies to create an iridescent

surface on which to paint. But before ground down,

fireflies glow to attract a mate. Just as we set ourselves

on fire to find the truest company. As I set my doubts

aflame when meeting you. They say in Southeast Asia,

fireflies flash all at once in very large groups. Bug

people call this spontaneous order. At night along

the river banks in Malaysia, the kelip-kelip make

the jungle glow. And in the Philippines, thousands

can be seen in the town of Donsol, blinking in

unison. I know we’re trying to do this as a people,

to light up all at once. I think this is revelation,

when things of the world light each other up. It’s

also the burn of suffering and the holding of

each other through grief. I’m grateful for the

one or two times we’ve fallen in this meadow.


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