9.04.2008

Insect Life of Florida


In those days I thought their endless thrum
was the great wheel that turned the days, the nights.
In the throats of hibiscus and oleander

I'd see them clustered yellow, blue, their shells
enamelled hard as the sky before rain.
All that summer, my second, from city

to city my young father drove the black coupe
through humid mornings I'd wake to like fever
parcelled between luggage and sample goods.

Afternoons, showers drummed the roof,
my parents silent for hours. Even then I knew
something of love was cruel, was distant.

Mother leaned over the seat to me, the orchid
Father'd pinned in her hair shrivelled
to a purple fist. A necklace of shells

coiled her throat, moving a little as she
murmured of alligators that float the rivers
able to swallow a child whole, of mosquitoes

whose bite would make you sleep a thousand years.
And always the trance of blacktop shimmering
through swamps with names like incantations—

Okeefenokee, where Father held my hand
and pointed to an egret's flight unfolding
white above swamp reeds that sang with insects

net over the sea, its lesson
of desire and repetition. Lizards flashed
over his shoes, over the rail

until I was lost, until I was part
of the singing, their thousand wings gauze
on my body, tattooing my skin.

father rocked me later by the water,
on the motel balcony, singing calypso
above the Jamaican radio. The lyrics

here the citronella burned, merging our
shadows—Father's face floating over mine
in the black changing sound

night, the enormous Florida night,
metallic with cicadas, musical
and dangerous as the human heart.

-- Lynda Hull