“The Flies” by James Valvis

James Valvis


That summer day it all went bad
a swarm of flies infested the house,
entered through holes in the screens
and settled upstairs in the room I was using
to type my novel. They buzzed boldly,
each big as a bee, black marbles shot from
a god’s thumb, grown fat on who knows what,
maybe the meat of my marriage, our decay
that stunk of death. So instead of writing
I spent most of the day chasing flies,
like a shadow I stalked them, sweating,
swearing, swatting them with nothing
but an open hand and the last of my hope.
In the night they were still alive
and had moved to the bedroom with me,
winged eyes staring down at my wife
as she pretended sleep, at me as I slipped
my hand across the soft silk of the chiffon
covering her crotch. Patiently the flies
scaled the walls, as my hand
pressed harder until she turned away,
groaned a fake groan, and fell back
into a new pretend sleep. Moonlight
slimed through the window. Nothing
was left to be done or tried but stare
at the flies, watch them flying
wall to wall, one mate to another.

from Rattle #33, Summer 2010


James Valvis: “The best writing advice I ever received came from my friend and mentor, Christy Sheffield Sanford. She said, ‘Indict yourself.’ This is mainly why I write: to hold myself accountable and to remind myself to live to the standard of conduct I ask of others. Since I seldom fail to disappoint myself in this regard, I never run out of things to write about.” (website)

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