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Flies, Dying (Mostly):

I grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, where the houseflies were pretty, with vivid blue-green heads, and very spry, hard to catch or swat. I rarely saw them dead unless killed by a fly swatter or open hand. So I was surprised, my first late autumn in Ithaca, NY (1967 - I was there to teach at Cornell, stayed for two years), to find my rooms invaded by dying flies, about as large as those I knew from Minnesota, but comparatively colorless - gray black.

Each morning I'd find more of them speckling the glass housings over light bulbs or on their backs on window sills, wriggling their legs in the air. When I used a piece of paper to tip them onto their feet, they staggered and fell back on their backs.

I couldn't do much else for them, so I started writing about them:

Against the sizzling bulb
a fly pings and buzzes,
pings and buzzes.

Fly buzzing on his back,
gently turned over, totters,
falls on his back.

I turn on the light,
spotting the shade with dead flies,
autumn rain outside.

Late fall, snowing out.
I flick the switch: yet more
dead flies in the shade.

I write about dead flies
specking the lamp shade,
THEN clean the lamp.

One more singed fly
on his back, legs working --
I'll toss him out tomorrow.

Fall. The flies die
like flies, legs up, flailing,
on each window sill.

Dark morning. By my cheek
her face; fly buzz-buzzes
the cold window.

Fly buzzes against the pane
just above where it's open...
Ah! Out!

Note: I lied. Her face wasn't by my cheek. I was alone during this period. Perhaps the dream of her face...