Beetles. Thousands of them—black clouds flying into town. It became hard to breathe. We kept the windows and doors closed, kept our heads covered. They decimated the apple orchards. We would find them in our homes, in boxes of cereal, crawling around our windows. Someone turned on a faucet and beetles crawled out.
A pastor in the street called it a plague, said something we had done had led them here. We felt guilty and offered the church more money. We attended a Sunday service. We sang along as loud as we could, holding our hands to the roof, hoping.
Then, without a sound, the beetles started to drop from the sky, dead. Their bodies littered our streets, a thick black dust as the sun beat down on them.
Then, the birds. Hundreds of sparrows fell to the ground in an hour’s time.
Beetles, then birds. None of us knew what to make of it.
A Chorus of Trees
Summer told me I couldn’t see the raging light, brail through the branches, a cacophony of leaves rustling to ground. I’m a freight train rusting in a salvage yard. She is a dew drop on a moth’s wing. In the music, I chase you as a dance. You’re a secret I can’t hold in. Somewhere in the leaves, several thrushes feed their young from their mouths, delicate and digestive. A yellow light blasts across a dark parking lot and illuminates a shopping cart buried in snow. We’re a mix of nature and our own dying. Summer, Summer, slow your distancing, I am waiting in the grass and feel life crawling all over me.
In the seeds of the gala apples the boys bit into—the red delicious, the fuji—they said they would find God. He was hiding in there. They knew it. They climbed up the tallest trees in the orchard, looking for the closest fruit to the sky. There were several failed attempts. Their stomachs filling quickly, hurricane winds on approach. There dangling on the highest branch: two white as sclera absorbing the last of the sun. They climbed. The tree swaying in the accelerating winds. One each, plucked from the branch. Rain. Hail. The boys fled through the orchard, those apples in their hands, the weight of the water on their clothes. No one else around for miles.
When they bit into them, it sounded like a gunshot echoed through the valley. Birds terrified the trees. The sky flooded. The town shook the hurricane into calmness. The boys woke the next day, without the ability to speak.
About the author:
Larry Eby is the author of two books of poetry, Flight of August, winner of the 2014 Louise Bogan Award from Trio House Press, and Machinist in the Snow, ELJ Publications 2015. His work can be found in Forklift, Passages North, Fourteen Hills, Superstition Review, and others. He is the editor in chief of Orange Monkey Publishing, a poetry press in California.