16 April 2010

Insect Life of Florida

by Lynda Hull

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.


  1. "the enormous Florida night, metallic with cicadas,"

    (inserting line into memory)

    Thanks, that was wonderful and worth reading again once the sun falls . . .

  2. OK, I promised myself after the first couple of poems I wouldn't offer much in the way of comment, but I had not seen this poem before and it just plain blows me away.

    It has faults, attributable I suppose to the blind side of all artists: which is the (sometime) inability of a sensitive person to look back on and weigh the significance of a personal episode against the boundless pathos of the human experience.

    But some of the images are incredible:

    "the great wheel that turned the days, the nights. In the throats of hibiscus and oleander"

    "their shells enamelled hard as the sky before rain..."

    "musical and dangerous as the human heart."

    How on Earth do people come up with these amazing images?

  3. CK, I'm glad you liked it!

    Chris, your comments are always welcome on my blog!


Add a little caffeine to my life...