“If you watch too hard, it won’t light up,” she
says to me as if the creature comprehends that this is
what I am doing. But I am not watching it, not at all.
I am, instead, trying to push it off of my finger
and into the jar without squishing its legs
or head or its fluorescent bottom against the side.
I finally get it into the jar and she fills it with things
it should like: some dewy grass, a thin stick, other bugs.
It scales the glass walls with ease and circles
the rim, pokes its nose through a tiny air hole. It stops.
It doesn’t light. Hasn’t for a few minutes, now,
but when I look to the distant woods where
the shadows have already fallen, the bugs flash
every time I blink in a midsummer light show.
We are still so exposed out here in the grass, and I advise
her to wait. “Just give him another minute or two,” I reason.
“He probably likes it dark.” But she is restless. She tries to darken the glass with her small hands.
They leave large gaps and fail to keep the light out;
no one is fooled. Agitated now, she taps the top of the lid
and watches the bug slip, just a bit. “Stop watching,” she says,
to me, to herself, to the evening. “Stop watching and then
it will happen.” She turns the lid and closes her eyes.
She stands like that, jar open, eyes closed, until the shadows
drop. Does one minute pass, or ten? When she comes to,
the jar is empty and the world around her alight.
I hear her whisper, to herself, to me, “Sometimes,
you just have to take your eyes off of things for a while.”
It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, to turn and creep silently back to the lit-from-inside house.
I shut the shades, tucked myself into bed, closed my eyes.
She came in glowing some time later, and her light
has not gone out since.