At 11 p.m., when the bonfire is exhausted,
It’s heat yet lingering in the denim on our knees,
Our attention must land on some other object of light –
Whether astral or artificial – to satisfy our primal
Photophilic need (the remains of our Icarian genes).
Here on our little farm – guarded by a plateau of
Bunched daisies, orchids, and tuberoses on one side;
And a reserve for photophobic tigers (though how
Their eyes shine topaz in the light!) on the other –
The sky, though dark, is bathed in the pearl sheen
Of celestial sequins: stars unchallenged in their brilliance
By brash city lights, which at this time of year
Set the satellite image of the national peninsula ablaze.
Not here, not here, where the closest city
Infected with illuminated infrastructure, and
Fireworks booming in the streets, is over an hour away.
Here, with our necks astrain, we discern constellations
We cannot name. Yet, as my mother, father, and sister
Count the stars, my attention turns to some odd, glowing scabs
On the rough skin of the soil: faint fluorescent green
Spirals daisy-stitched into the earth.
Drawn to them (wingless, bipedal moths that humans are)
I squat beside one and dig it up with my nail.
And just like that, its light turns off, in shyness,
For I believe these beings do not enjoy attention.
Littered to where the buzzing electric fence
Protects the wheat stalks in the night,
The glow worms – for that is what I think
They are called – doze in bioluminescent
Contentedness. There is in them none of the
Anarchy of popping firecrackers, the vigour
Of colour-changing fairy-lights, the allure of
Glowing cellophane- and plastic-haired lanterns;
The glow worms’ celebration is in their solemn, silent
Sparkling, barely visible through the muddy clumps.
There I stand: imagining that the universe
Is aged to some eon when all its stars
Are dwarfed and dim, and the Milky Way is flipped
Like a coin, forcing our children to walk on
The sky – for that’s how it feels to gaze at
These glow worms winking softly at my feet –
Until I am called into the farmhouse.
Written by Madhura Gune
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