June Bugs

For me, “June bug” is synonymous with “summer”. I have vivid memories of a yard teeming with these large beetles, loud with the drone of their wings. There was a trick to catching them, a certain turn in their flight that signaled they were landing. Watch, watch, watch, then race across the yard to the spot where one had just disappeared into the grass. I remember the pinch and scratch of their legs and the sharp odor they left on my hands.

Here in Virginia, summer after summer has passed with no June bugs. Since leaving Tennessee, I’ve only seen one or two. Until this week. Seemingly out of nowhere, dozens of them have buzzed into the yard. It’s been a blissful dose of nostalgia, watching them come and go, listening to their heavy flight. I’m no longer interested in catching them, except with my camera, but I smell them on my skin again. Their unexpected arrival is a breezy memory that makes me yearn for another sprint through the sunlit yard of my youth.

It never occurred to me, before beginning this post, that what I know as a June bug might not be the same insect that everyone knows as a June bug. For clarification, when I say “June bug”, I actually mean green June beetle.

To further complicate matters, I photographed the next beetle on the same day, thinking it was simply a small individual of the same species. Turns out, this is probably an entirely different species, an Emerald Euphoria beetle.

A few years ago, Mother called me after hearing a song on the radio called “Junebug Waltz”. She loved the song so much that she searched out the CD, It Don’t Mean I Don’t Love You by Hurray for the Riff Raff. I’m grateful to her for introducing me to the song, and the group.

Analog and Digital

I can’t deny that compact discs store easy and play pretty. Their studio-fresh tracks sound eternally new, scrubbed free of noise. Perhaps this is why I prefer vinyl records, because I’m not a tremendous fan of “new”. I like the hiss and pops of dusty wear. I like the way albums feel, the balanced weight of them. I like centering them on the turntable, pushing the start button, then listening for the click and whirr of motors as the tonearm levitates into place. The loud half-scratch of initial contact. A few seconds of fuzzy anticipation, then warm, full music.

It’s still magic, to me, how sound was trapped in those spiral grooves. How it stayed there, unchanged, during years of transport from home to college to apartment to duplex to home-of-our-own. How it reverberates–ringing off the vinyl, through the needle, and into a set of speakers that harmonize, that wail and thump. How it fills my house with acoustic contentment and electric excitement, with voices from my youthful years. I wouldn’t live those spent decades again, but it’s nice to hear such vibrant ghosts, singing their distant songs once more.

And it’s nice to preserve my ghosts on these modern discs and silicon chips, even if part of their warmth is lost in the process.

Watershed

Watershed

Really just a stream
What we called simply
“Creek” (in accent: “crick”)
Shallow rills for summer wading
Cold flanks of limestone spring

We ragged group of nymphs
Sisters of my youth
Bolted gaily, daily
Down the hills, pooled
Ourselves beside the bank

We harried crawdads from their dens
Gave silver minnows fairy names
We saw ourselves in damselflies
Molting toward our adult wings
While sustained by infant gills

What snakes we found in Eden
We kept all summer in our rooms
Their flicking tongues, feather light
Spoke nothing of temptation
We loosed them in the fall

As time loosed us one season
To gain the winnowed air
We gleamed in bright emergence
Damp jewels ferried on a breeze
Into brilliant scattered flight

Published in The Journal of Liberal Arts and Education Winter 2010

Courage

Courage

Courage surrounds her children
With sharp railed chairs
Rowdy friends and wasps
Conceding the wisdom of pain

She knows the world
Which her children must meet
Its deep rushing water
And sweet-tongued strangers
And cabinets lined with poison

Courage hopes children see clearly
Between fear and danger

She allows her charges
Conversation with fanatics
The writings of heretics
And knowledge of many gods
With their many different histories
Of savagery

She aches
When her children discover
That not all facts are truth
And not all truths can be known

And Courage stands by
As her children learn the only skill
That can ever, really, be learned
The individual and perfect art
Of survival

Where deep water holds less dread
For one who understands its current

Before I Knew

Before I Knew

Before I knew pleasures
Should be guilty
I climbed trees

Forfeiting homework and chores
In search of the beginning
Of wind
In those days shadows danced
Proved the sun moved around the Earth
(Did Ptolemy climb trees?)

Before I knew history
Was more ancient than myself
I hunted arrowheads

Scouring new plowed furrows
I exhumed fallen masterpieces
Of war
In those days summer ruled
Proved we would live forever
(Was Einstein once a child?)

Before I knew memory
Shaped the future
I dreamed easily

Dozing among the branches
Bare feet thickly shod
With dirt
In those days apples beckoned
Proved the universe was infinite
(Did Newton also dream?)

Published in The Powhatan Review, Vol. V, Number 1, Summer 2005