Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Photograph by Steven David Johnson


In the absence of light,
the harshness of day
is sloughed away
into a reflecting pool of night,

where a billion things shine
that are not stars -
but fireflies caught in jars,
illuminating your face and mine.

Here what passes are not ships,
but silver dreams with golden masts,
with billowing sails sewn from the past,
moving in breath blown from an angel’s lips.


the walking man said...

You've achieved a fine innocent quality in this. Not really my shot of bourbon; but why not? There has to be someone left to reflect that childhood is still owed dreams born on the breath of angels. And you've done a fine job of reminding us of this.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Walking Man - Thanks so much for those kind words. Yes, I thought it would be refreshing to post a light summer poem. Sometimes, even I, get too bogged down with the weighty, deep poetry. Seeing all the fireflies out in the evening inspired this, that and reading some of Robert Louis Stevenson's poems for children in his book, Garden of Verses. I hope there will always be someone who will aspire to reflect the innocence and magic of childhood. Many thanks, again.

RachelW said...

The last bit is my favourite. This has a children's anthology feel to it... classical, and lovely.

Joseph said...


Don't know if you've been having the same issue in your part of the world, but they had been saying around here that fireflies were suffering the same kind of decline as the honeybee recently had. So it's been very heartening to see them re-appearing lately after a worrisome couple of weeks; that's what this reminds me of, at least. :)

trooping with crows said...

The last stanza! Oh, it reminds me of our "Peter Pan sky" This one is so whimsical and charming, Mom.

The second stanza makes me think of (to quote another great poet)
"all that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream"
This wraps up my magical childhood summers! Beautiful.

laughingwolf said...

brings back memories of the times i caught them as a kid... thx klg

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Rachel - I appreciate your comment. I've been reading Stevenson's poetry for children - I was inspired by his wholesome verses. Thanks.

Joseph, no I haven't noticed any decline in the firefly population here - of course, there very well could be. Wouldn't it be terrible if they didn't make a comeback? But, you did say that they seem to be re-appearing. Would summer nights be as enchanting without them? Thanks so much for your nice comment.

Merissa - oh, definitely. Well, I don't know about anyone else - but I felt I needed a little whimsy about now. Yes, and you have to love Poe.

And from another poet, Elizabeth Akers:

"Backward, turn backward, oh time in your flight - and make me a child again just for tonight."

Thanks, Riss.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

LW, You're welcome. Yes, wasn't that fun? Maybe not for the fireflies, however. (;0 Thanks!

Aniket said...

Okay, I loved the pic!
I loved the poetry more...

But the thought I loved the most was in the comments "I hope there will always be someone who will aspire to reflect the innocence and magic of childhood."

I am still pondering over this... where have I lost that child?

Margaret said...

I've just commented on LGL post on fireflies and now find the same theme here. Must be firefly time of the year. We don't get them here.

I can picture a wonderful 'Child's Summer Night' with this poem K.
Specially love the last stanza.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Hi Aniket..the picture is awesome, isn't it? It was taken by a fellow Appalachian. Check out his website if you like or

Thanks so much for your sweet comments. I guess we all think about where our childlike wonderment is sometimes. It helps to be around children, which thankfully, I am. I think you still possess the playfulness of a child! I mean that as a compliment. ;P

Margaret - Yes, it must be the season to write about them!

Many parts of the US don't have them either. It's really too bad, because they are so beautiful at night - very awe-inspiring. Thanks for your thoughts on this, I do appreciate them so much.

Rick said...

You know, somehow I think this poem is not finished, K. Lawsen. It has the feel of a longer work not yet ready to be shared. There is something of an aching remonstrance to it...

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Hi Rick - perhaps because, as with all jouneys, even childhood - there is no real end. There is only another direction to be taken to extend the passage. Nice to see you, Rick, and thank you so much for your thoughts.

Jenny said...

Beautiful! My impression of this poem is that it glows in the dark indigo night.

Anonymous said...

Such a beautiful poem. Really stellar! (No pun intended.) I agree with Walking Man. You have such an ability to capture emotions in poems.

Rick said...

You know K, I have printed out this poem and read it aloud many times now. I've read it to Minx (my white Turkish angora cat). She purrs when I read it, but goes silent when I was reading Yeats. Seriously.

So I read it one last time, then fell asleep. In my dreams, I saw ships made of firepoints moving through walls of cobwebbed mist.

The last image that I remember is from a wooded area I used to stay the night in when I traveled, suspended in a giant, spinning Mason jar.

So what I'm saying is that you have a wonderful gift for creating images that imprint on the heart and mind.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Jenny - welcome to Old Mossy Moon. Oh, what a beautiful thing to say about this poem - poetry in and of itself, really. Thanks so much for coming by and leaving so nice a compliment.

Jason - thanks for that flattering comment - un-pun and all. lol I sense a poem before I write it...I think maybe that is why I can capture an emotion. I thank you for your sweet compliment.

Rick - I always knew Minx had good taste! (Kiss her for me) I am happy that this verse took you to dreamland..where everything sparkles and where one is totally inviolate.

Giant spinning Mason jars sounds like so much fun - and those ships moving through cobwebbed mists - ah, sounds so dreamy. I hope my dreams tonight will be as lovely.

Thanks for relating your enchanting dream - and for your very nice compliment. <3

Karen said...

This is beautiful, ephemeral, ethereal, and gentle. It's just lovely, Kaye.

extremity said...

yesterday night there were many at my home,a miniature sky in my living we believe,these flies bring thieves,absurd,might sound:)
thought of catching them and put in a jar as i used to do when i was a kid.
elegantly put !

Writer on Board said...

Beautiful, as always, K.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Hey Karen!!! - Welcome home, friend! I am so glad to see you. Do you remember how many lightning bugs there used to be when we were growing up? Thanks for the beautiful comment. I'm happy that you're back.

Extremity - First of all welcome to Old Mossy Moon - glad you stopped by today. I'll have to visit you in a bit, to see where you are located. Oh, that is a different take on lightning bugs/fireflies. Maybe you SHOULD try and scoop them all up! ;D Thanks so much for leaving such a nice message. Please stop in again.

Writer on Board - nice to see again. Thanks so much for that sweet comment.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Fine innocents indeed; yet, they trapped fireflies.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

JR - and quickly let them go again.

KGT (aka Cagey) said...

Can't help but juxtapose the fireflies with the immediate reaction those mason jars create in me...moonshine.

Moonshine and fireflies go together.

KGT (aka Cagey) said...

Musing further upon fireflies- I remembered this oldie from my blog, and would be remiss if I did not share it with you.

Have read your poem a few more times. Fine work.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

KGT - LOL! I was wondering when that would come up! Those tight-lidded mason jars were the precursor to the travel mug, too. Have moonshine will travel!

Thanks for the link to your firefly poem. I'll be over to check it out. I appreciate your compliment.

Catvibe said...

Oh that is so magical!

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Thanks, Cat. I know you like "magic" too!

Julie said...

Well, good grief. How did I miss such a beautiful poem? Was I asleep? Am I crazy? Don't answer that last question...ha! ha!

Here comes the serious part. I love this so, so much. It takes me back to childhood. The voice you use fits the tone perfectly. I used to fight with my cousin, because she would make rings out of them. Isn't that awful?

I especially love the last stanza. It is magical. The angel lips is fantastic. Excellent work!

Thanks so much for the trip back in time. I'll be thinking of you again, K. This time, it will be as the sun goes down and all those lights rise up through the trees. Have a beautiful night!

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Julie - lol are a hoot.

I know so many of us can relate to this experience - this childhood passage. All those summer nights in our yards. I probably stayed out in the yard until 9:30 or
10:00. We used to stay out until we couldn't even see each other's faces or our own hands in front of our eyes. Ghost stories on the porch, playing guitars and singing, and... catching lightning bugs and gently letting them go again into the dark. Now, when I am in bed at night, I look out at the mystical scene of those greenish flickering lights and remember...

joaquin carvel said...

nobody imagines like a kid imagines - which made me think - that my creative efforts are more digging down than building up. as a child's poem it is amazing - but what makes it a great child's poem, i think, is that it isn't (really) for children at all.

(i have always been jealous of those who live in areas with fireflies. moreso now.)

Karen said...

K - I had to come back for another read. I always think your latest work is my favorite, but this one is for sure. The voice of this is pure magic.

extremity said...

hello,im from Kerala,in India.its a land of superstitions behind the aspiring sophistications.wat i mentioned is just one of d umpteen beliefs we hav here..
plus i loved your ethereal way of writing..will b coming often..and thanks for stopping by extremity..

Selchie said...

this is so peaceful and evocative of the nostalgia like fire flies caught in the jar of childhood.


have a wonderful day,


K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Joaquin - You are right, it isn't for children because they are still in the moment. They can't analyze what it is to be a child or to know that "these" are the magic times. They just live their dreams from day to day. Many thanks for your astute reflections, as always. (I'm sorry that you don't have fireflies.)

Karen - I appreciate that very much. I think your affinity might stem from those growing up days in the mountains - waxing nostalgic for those enchanting (mystical)days of childhood. Thanks again!

Extremity - LOL - all areas of the world have superstitions and beliefs. It is wonderful to hear about other areas of the world. I loved my visit to your blog and will certainly be a frequent guest! Thanks for taking a second look.

Hi Sarah - thank you so much. I am glad it brought you a peaceful moment to remember those lovely days of play. I was hoping it would offer a respite from a harried world. ;)