"Fireflies" by Regina O'Melveny, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA

Coming Soon: Watch for entry details for our 2009 contest!

Handmade artist's book by Tania Baban, Conflux Press Collection Privée



Once I saw fireflies in a Mexican valley dark as ink,
my friend's voice flickers, a cool jar of light
thirty years after she rode the Mexicali-Ciudad de Mexico train.

The night sky mirrored their sparks with stars, above the train
that I also rode decades ago, my face pressed to the jostling window.
Stars enough to cast the train's shadow rushing

blackly beside us like water, knuckling over stones and scrub
and the glint of small creatures' eyes that watched us go by,
we who were spectral and inconsequential on this earth.


My sister once led me to a hedgerow studded with
pale green fireflies, the night I couldn't tell harsh words from
sorrowful holes punched in the black tin sky.

She called them lucciole, a word I spoke over and over,
lucciole, while small children in an Umbrian chapel nearby
sang glories to a faraway God and his brown clay Son.

Yet there were other gods who didn't share our form
and tattooed their devotions, all sex and lumen
on the dense June air, while my sister and I could only weep.


Once I spent the night at the river's edge among fireflies
in darkness so deep I couldn't find myself. Couldn't even grope
the way. I knelt to the earthen floor, littered with crisp wings.

When everything stops, you can only scratch in the dirt.
And when I touched a smooth round thing it was only
the knob of a bone, no door to the underground palace.

Though later, awaking in daylight, I briefly saw the outline
of hinges, a doorjamb fading in the ceiling of leaves above me.
Someday perhaps She will shine her green lanterns again.