41 Fireflies By Marie Anzalone

41 Fireflies

Mozart wrote Symphony #41-
his longest- just before
his death. To include a sarabande,
I am told, a Central American
dance of which Cervantes said,
“Hell was its birthplace
and breeding place.”

41. A number. I am 41.
It has been 25 years since
my first rape. Still, I am one
of the lucky ones. Unlike them,
I was, and am, still someone.
More than just a number.

Don’t call them angels, or dolls.
Angels don’t know despair,
dolls do not scream with the pain
of flesh melting off muscle and
bone. Do not rob them
the dignity of the terror
of those final moments nobody
with a soul wants to dwell upon.

Nor is it the will of any god
I will answer to. WE are
the eyes and heart and hands
of God for those whose lives
have not been awarded
Guardian angels. We, not God,
are the givers-
Of Life, Justice. Dignity.

Perfect souls
in imperfect states and conditions,
like us. But that inferno
started years and years ago,
long before any match was lit;
That moment someone decided
to permit control of human beings
behind locked doors and silence,
because it is easier
than dealing with their entirety.
Out of sight, out of mind.

When only half of your being
is sanctioned, how could one
ever expect to be whole? The
price you apparently pay
for defending yourself,
if you were born voiceless-
is to be burned alive.

I bet we can easily find:
41 reasons the sarabande was banned,
for celebrating too freely
that untamable side of woman
And 41 excuses that justify
its subjugation.
41 ways to forget the dead.
41 times you could have done,

41 examples of the heroes
whose stories never make it
Into newspapers,
41 things we thought
were more important than justice
for the forgotten
until that dark night it took a fire
to make us remember.

If I had a jar and a meadow
I would gently capture
41 fireflies, hold them
reverently like a lantern,
read this poem by their
ephemeral collective glow. And
release them, one fragile,
transcendent, ascending
brave point of wavering light,
at a time. A prayer
and human face, a name,
human soul
for each one. Not just
a number.

“I release you,” I would say.
I would rewrite those hours,
turn you not into 41 dolls
but into those fireflies;
painlessly, small enough
to pass through a crack in the wall
large enough to ferry the soul
out of Hell.

If you are a woman,
41 times each week you face
a piece of your dreams,
security, self-esteem being burned
to ash. We are so accustomed
we have trained ourselves
to notice only after
they are dead.

author’s note:

This piece was inspired by a horrific fire near our capital city (Guatemala City) that left 41 girls dead. It has galvanized a nation- even one as used to human tragedy as ours was left stunned as details came out and the horror intensified each passing day that we learned more, and the death toll kept (and keeps on) rising. Sometimes the only form left for expression is poetry. The death toll on the day of writing, March 17, 2017, was 41. It may still go higher.

By Marie Anzalone


Marie Anzalone is a development worker researching climate change effects in the rural Guatemalan highlands, where she lives with an active volcano in her backyard and a passionate love for all things arts and sciences. She crunches precipitation data and interviews poor farm wives on her good days and humbles herself the rest of the time presenting poetry in Spanish in front of a tough crowd who are quick to remind her of every gender and verb tense error she has ever made. She has been writing poetry for more than 15 years, and would like to offer a few pieces for consideration in your esteemed publication. She is offering the following 5 poems: “41 Fireflies,” “That Morning in August,” “Daily Consumption,” “Maternal Line,” and “The Freedom of a Rainy Day.”

Her creative writing and essays and short stories have been published in the Namaste Human Rights Journal of the University of Connecticut (2010), and several times in The Larcenist, Rising Phoenix Press, and Versewrights. She has published three stand-alone books of poetry, which may be found under her author profile on Goodreads and on Amazon, and has had works included in several creative writing anthologies. The five pieces she is offering have not been previously published through any print format other than her personal blog on Writers Café.

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