The Truest of Our Offerings
Sorry to mention the chorus of cicadas
and the constellations of fireflies
blinking where I’ve just looked or am about to.
Reader, do you say fireflies or lightning bugs?
It’s lightning bugs where I’m from. We also
said locusts not cicadas. Likewise bats, apologies
for the entry of the bats who skim the pool
right now and yaw right back into a sky
always lighter, it seems, than it should be
for bats. Their bellies flash ochre above
the faux-Aegean tiling around the edge.
My daughter saw her first bat yesterday.
She thinks there’s just the one or maybe two
in Indiana, and therefore the world, swinging
as if on wires, toy bats eating toy mosquitoes
then drawn back up somehow like props or puppets.
I have to tell her they’re not bad, mosquitoes,
despite the welts and the maddening itch.
They just drink blood, the way mosquitoes do.
They keep the bats well fed and in the air.
You’d think it would be the other way around,
that she would see the bats like blood avengers,
something indeed to fear. And yet, like gods
or demons, they have limits, and weaknesses,
what with the intercession of mosquitoes,
who sing them from their caves and bring
from us the truest of our offerings.
Felt-lined, soft-looking as a pelt inside,
guns lined up with their barrels
rested in the scallops of the brace board
like a docent’s cared-for clutch of iron.
He’d built the doors with pointed glass
so you could see them shut up
but the little latch and key were only
decorations like on a girl’s diary.
Shotgun, rifle, shotgun, pellet gun,
all down the line like that, and below
in a drawer the shells and cartridges
rolled like grapeshot in the hold.
He scribed the layout of the scrollwork
on the molding and skirting
freehand with pencil and coffee can,
then jigsawed out the Fibonacci curves.
Just lumberyard pine, soft and buttery,
easy to dent but pliant in its
surrender to the sanding block,
any divots wetted so to rise
like welts and be smoothed down,
then the whole thing stained
to look like other wood, walnut,
wiped of its excess and shellacked
and rubbed to a matte gloss
with fine steel wool. The felt
was the last thing, the backing,
the something else inside to take
the weight of the blued steel
with grace, a reminder
of something we could not quite say
but were a little shamed by.