Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend several hours on the banks of a lovely creek.  I was learning, with others, a method for assessing stream health.  The number and kind of macroinvertebrates (i.e. bugs and other tiny critters) that live among the rocks at the bottom of a stream, are a good index of how clean or polluted the stream is.  

     These tiny critters, some barely visible with the naked eye, lead quite interesting lives, mostly unknown to us.  One of these beings is the mayfly.  Poet Richard Wilbur describes his sense of wonder as he watches mayflies in action.–April Moore


In somber forest, when the sun was low,
I saw from unseen pools a mist of flies,
     In their quadrillions rise,
And animate a ragged patch of glow,
With sudden glittering –as when a crowd,
     Of stars appear,
Through a brief gap in black and driven cloud,
One arc of their great round-dance showing clear.

It was no muddled swarm I witnessed, for
In entrechats each fluttering insect there
     Rose two steep yards in air,
Then slowly floated down to climb once more,
So that they all composed a manifold
     And figured scene,
And seemed the weavers of some cloth of gold,
Or the fine pistons of some bright machine.

Watching those lifelong dancers of a day
As night closed in, I felt myself alone
     In a life too much my own,
More mortal in my separateness than they–
Unless, I thought, I had been called to be
     Not fly or star
But one whose task is joyfully to see
How fair the fiats of the caller are.


2 Responses to “Mayflies”

  1. Diane Says:

    Thanks, April–you keep expanding my appreciation.

  2. Joan Brundage Says:

    Thank you, April. I remember the beautiful Mayflies and this poem is a beauty.

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