Where I Come From, We Call Them “Lightning Bugs” – A Poem by Cynthia Pitman


Fireflies at Ochanomizu – Kobayashi Kiyochika

by Cynthia Pitman

My brothers and my sisters and my cousins —
there were a lot of us.
Mama fixed a big supper
and laid it out on the rickety picnic tables
under the pecan trees in the backyard.
There were so many pecan trees,
Mama filled brown paper grocery bags
to overflowing with pecans
we could crack and eat by the fire at night.
She made syrupy-sweet, sticky pecan pies for dessert.
We would lick our fingers after,
but they still held the stick.
We caught lightning bugs after supper.
We ran barefoot.
The grass was cool and damp from dew.
I would jump and reeeeach
every time I saw one.
Sometimes they flew too high for me,
so they got away.
But they’re slow. Most of the time I caught them.
I would twist-twist-twist the lid off my old mayonnaise jar
and – quick! – put them in.
Then I would twist-twist-twist the lid back on tight.
I held up my jar and watched the lightning bugs
flicker flicker flicker.
Sometimes they would die.
I don’t know why. The lid had air holes.
But their lights would soon start to f l i c k e r
and go all the way out.
I tried to dump the dead ones out of the jar
without letting the live ones escape.
But that wasn’t easy to do.
Usually I just let the dead ones pile up.
Soon, all my