Not Dark Enough for Fireflies


To feel the always coming on,
The always rising of the night
—Archibald MacLeish


I waited for the moon to rise.
Not dark enough for fireflies.
Twilight stretched out a taut, sheer veil.
I kept looking at the sky.
No color. A pale luminosity.
Darkness rises, doesn’t fall.
That stand of trees across the road
must be where the night is stored
until it is released and poured
up into the air,
then everywhere.
Daylight’s lamp is turned down low
and steady; the light seems to stay and stay.
But force yourself to look away.
Go indoors, turn on a light.
Then wait a beat.
Then go back out
and look: sky, field, and tree
will be diminished, changed,
not dark, not yet,
but somberer, but dim.
An unseen drain sucks brightness out of them.
And so with human time.
Look at a well-known face, then look away
a year, a month, sometimes a single day.
Then look again.
Gently or ungently
quenched, some spark is dim,
is maybe even gone,
and unlike tomorrow’s dawn
will not return.
I waited for the moon to rise.
Not dark enough for fireflies,
but night was coming on.