Night Wings

Therese Leigh

In the heat of Indiana summer
moths curtain the screened windows,
layered thick like a quilted coverlet.
I hear her voice--
Quick--turn off the lights;
go outside and sweat in the night
where wheels of passing cars
throw flicks of air; wet flesh steals coolness
that passes suddenly as streaming red taillights.
A teenage woman,
she giggles in the hot shadows
as if she were still a girl.
Now the boys run at her
with a moth they have caught--
poor cecropia that will tear
its fanned red velvet wings
in a vain effort to be free.
She screams and runs;
stubby fingered hands flutter
on bare shoulders,
fight the frenzied feet
of the creature thrust at her.
The game goes on too long,
past believing--a faithless rite,
hysterical laughter repeated like a litany,
and her two-year old girl child sits
immobile as a china doll, back pushed
against the tenement's stained brick,
dark eyes agape in disapproval,
already detached and separate,
already lost, already mad.
Exoskeletal, the fire escape snakes up,
shakes, rubs against the outside of the building
where brief lovers make out on the wrought iron rails.
Below the old-fashioned street lamps glow
in circles of swarming insects,
males burning in their bitter light.
The child watches the woman, her mother--
a flash of thin voile against galloping legs,
thin fabric slides against a belly
only slightly pregnantly swollen.
The child turns away,
determinedly watches the smooth glissade
of metal at the intersected streets,
red yellow green of traffic signals,
and there--stretched between giant oaks
a black shade of peace,
where she counts the fireflies swimming
in the heat of Indiana summer.

Copyright CrossConnect, Inc. 1996