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American Life in Poetry: Fireflies

American Life in Poetry: Fireflies



Marilyn Kallet lives and teaches in Tennessee. Over the years I have read many poems about fireflies, but of all of them hers seems to offer the most and dearest peace.




In the dry summer field at nightfall,

fireflies rise like sparks.

Imagine the presence of ghosts

flickering, the ghosts of young friends,

your father nearest in the distance.

This time they carry no sorrow,

no remorse, their presence is so light.

Childhood comes to you,

memories of your street in lamplight,

holding those last moments before bed,

capturing lightning-bugs,

with a blossom of the hand

letting them go. Lightness returns,

an airy motion over the ground

you remember from Ring Around the Rosie.

If you stay, the fireflies become fireflies

again, not part of your stories,

as unaware of you as sleep, being

beautiful and quiet all around you.

Ted Kooser was US Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006. He is a professor in the English Department of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He lives on an acreage near the village of Garland, Nebraska, with his wife Kathleen Rutledge, the editor of the Lincoln Journal Star.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (,

publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of

Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2009 by Donal Heffernan, whose most recent book of poetry is

Duets of Motion,” Lone Oak Press, 2001. Poem reprinted by permission of Donal Heffernan.

Introduction copyright ©2010 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

American Life in Poetry ©2006 The Poetry Foundation

Contact: [email protected].

This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.


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