Poem: “Mayflies” by Adam Vines

Posted on February 11, 2014 by


Later this week, we’ll be serving up an interview with poet Adam Vines. As an hors d’oeuvre, we offer his poem “Mayflies” from his book The Coal Life, a finalist for the 2012 Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize.


Ripples pinprick the surface.
It’s coming from below,
mayfly nymphs pipping,
twitching out of skins,
and fanning moist wings. A few
then tens of thousands
rise in frenzied clouds.
Males fall first,
drizzling back to the water’s face
like ash, then females light
the shining and spill their eggs
before night takes over.

Here I am at the quarry
again, thinking of stories to tell you:
the raccoon that made off
with the hotdog buns, the broken
tent pole, the cottonwoods someone
cut and hauled off to sell
for violin bridges in Japan or China,
the bald eagle nesting in a loblolly,
the gobbler strutting in a green field,
all of the things I didn’t see
yesterday or today, but instead
remember from when I was a kid,
the observations you say bring us closer.
I won’t tell you about the mayfly nymphs,
the urge for change, flight, and sex; how,
nonetheless, the nymphs wait patiently for years
in the dark cracks of riprap and sunken leaves
for the perfect day, temperature, clarity;
how nights with her make me love you more.


Adam Vines, “Mayflies” from The Coal Life. Copyright © 2012 by Adam Vines. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Source: The Coal Life (The University of Arkansas Press, 2012)

Posted in: Poetry