A NIGHT OF FIREFLIES
by Gail Hosking
I listen to the story again, the one on the edge of memory ready to be told like something written from the future backwards. A night stored away in a body of light, a purse of gold coins, or dozens of new moons. The most romantic night of her life, she always said. Two together for a weekend, missing the big reunion dinner and choosing instead a long walk where they ended up by the Music Hall, a building of stone and leaded glass with ivy climbing the walls. As she spoke, you could nearly imagine the sounds of a piano concert held in a room upstairs just for the two of them. They sat on a blanket in a nearby field with a bottle of wine without glasses, the sun angling its way down and falling below the horizon. Eventually moonlight lit up the sky with its brilliant mysteries. There were laughs galore, kisses, and the dazzle of desire. A beautiful silence as they stared ahead through the mist, hand in hand. Then more talk—the kind, she said, she had longed to hear for years. There it was in spades pouring out with the language of ease and a million opened doors. They lay back to watch the first stars come out. Then it happened—a field of fireflies lighting up as a signal between the tiny sexes with flashes from luminescent organs. Electric flitters turned off and then on, plenty to last the night. She was in love, had been, she admitted, when she first heard him quote a sentence of a favorite essay about the courage of turtles, then dared her to dance in the nearby recovered barn with its author. And she had danced, she said with her eyes lit up as if surprised even now. But that night of the fireflies—might it have been their last? Not because of love or anything they said, but because it’s the way of the world. Gifts aren’t meant to be kept, she conceded. Distance alone made it difficult. Ahh, but that’s only a practical thing, she’d say with her eyes staring into the distance. It was a lot more complicated than a simple map, she admitted. Histories carry burdens, and geography includes many people, which remains an impossible philosophical puzzle. Knowing all that, their letters would stop with a slow climb back to other worlds. But now it’s those fireflies she recalls foremost. A field of them lighting up the world, she would tell again and again with a smile. A painted panorama of poetry with luminosity brighter than any divine truth she’d ever known.
About the Author:
Gail Hosking is the author of the memoir Snake’s Daughter: The Roads in and out of War, published by U of Iowa Press, as well as the poetry chapbook The Tug (Finishing Line Press). Her essays and poems have appeared in such places as Consequence Magazine, The Florida Review, Post Road, Timberline Review, River Teeth, and Upstreet. She holds an MFA from Bennington College and taught at Rochester Institute of Technology for 15 years. She writes, teaches, and edits in upstate New York, and has recently become a grandmother for the first time.