Ephemera

They emerged through layers of blackness and cold.
Hatched out, they uncurled and began swimming
toward this new world of light and wind. They
broke the surface and looked around, surprised to be
among so many like themselves. When their wings dried,

they spread them–like cellophane–and rose,
miraculously, and flew. Then the sunlight blasted
everything—the spiderwebs above the stream,
the golden spiders, the stream itself, the speckled
backs of trout where they lay like those dreams

one cannot quite remember. When it splashed, the water
caught the light, then let it go so it could go on
cherishing the moss-edged river rocks, the undersides
of cottonwood leaves, the fisherman’s hair,
lifted now in the breeze. Poorly made for this life,

they dizzied upward into the dangers. Drawn
but no one knew why. Then hours spent touching
the water lightly and launching off again or muddling
in the shallows, half-drowned, half-pasted to the surface
with a million others like themselves. Finally

they realized their one task, a kind of art: to make
more like them who would unburden themselves
of darkness and launch in dazzling sunlight.
And when they understood, in the moment
they understood, they started falling

through layers of blackness and cold and were gone.