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