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Poem-a-Day

Swatting Flies

SWATTING FLIES

You think of yourself as having been a sweet boy,
The kind of kid who wouldn’t hurt a fly,
But let us not forget that in summer
You kept a swatter nearby.

You liked the feel of the looped wire handle
In your hand, how easy it was
To wield, light and nimble
As a riding crop.

The business end was a square of blue
Plastic mesh, perforated to let
The air pass through
So that in the act of wrath
You wouldn’t fan the fly to safety.

Most days the killing you did was passive.
Sometimes you even swatted your own bare calf,
Leaving a red welt you felt vanish
Like the ring of water
Evaporating off the armrest of the chair
In which you sat reading LORD OF THE FLIES.

But don’t you remember those afternoons
Some fury the catalyst of which
You only dimly understood
Incited you to slaughter?

Then you would have no mercy
For those who wrung their hands
Among the breadcrumbs,
Pleading for you to take pity on them,
Or the ones you found making love
On the windowsills in the upstairs
Bedrooms where they had believed
They would be safe.

All that stopped you was when
The blue square grew
So clogged with the dead
The living felt a breath of air
That made them take flight
Like men who’ve just sat down to eat
When the phone rings, someone calling
To tell them to flee the house,
Leaving their plates of steaming food
To the flies to enjoy in the time
They have left before the blast.
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