Glorious First

Poem by Ernest Hilbert



Fireflies glide leisurely on the yard tonight,

Whirl of bullion, Will o’ the Wisp,

Soft-bodied constellation of cold light,

Brightening like beacons, dimming to eclipse.

They wash and signal in their delicate funnel,

Flashing silent broadsides at our porch.



Caravaggio daubed bright oils of milled

Firefly to light St. Michael’s angel on canvas.



Each is an ignited and suddenly dampened torch

Torturing Leander, lost in his dark channel.



Boys flourish glass jars through the darkness

To imprison the fireflies. Once filled,

The jars swim like wind-stirred lanterns. Girls giggle

As they twist quivering wings into a hoop—

Fireflies, still alive, tremor and wriggle—

To fashion shimmering bracelets. They droop

As they die, but glow like mythic gold in mists,

Smears of troubled sunlight on innocent wrists.

American Arts Quarterly, Fall 2011, Volume 28, Number 4