fireflies

the sky is the softest of twilit blues, the air heavy with humidity, sweet as the honeysuckle vines that line maryland avenue. the south river shimmers on the horizon, a cerulean expanse of warm water where we would go skinny dipping every fourth of july. summer; home.

Scrambling up our wooden playground just to slide back down, grabbing the colored ribbons of the eight roly-poly puppies our dog had brought into the world a mere six weeks ago

That blue summer night, I felt so free. No math or gymnastics, no place I had to be. So warm, seated shoulder-to-shoulder and in laps on the grass. blanketed beneath the fading sky: my two sisters, my mom, and I.

We were together, as a family. Or as much of a family as we could be. That night was enough to forget we were missing my dad, fighting an undeclared war in Iraq.

fireflies flicker way up high, like magic – on again, off again. the darker it gets, the more of them I see, lighting up the old oak trees.

there were nights when we would catch them, my little sister and I. hold them covered in our hands, peeking in with one eye. sometimes, Mom would let us move them to glass jars, permeated with just enough holes so they could breathe

we’d watch them flicker by our bedsides, like nightlights.
until the morning came and they were just black-and-orange bugs again; crawling, encaged.
we, too, knew how it felt to be caught by life involuntarily
so we unscrewed the tops, and let the fireflies fly free

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