“The Swarm” by Anne Haines

Anne Haines


Numerous pilots have reported sightings
of burning debris in the skies over
the eastern U.S. …
—News report

Night flight, routine
over eastern cities,
their grids of blue light.
My radio crackles
with its usual static,
codes for altitude
and safe landings.
When the sudden streak flares
in the corner of my eye
I squint into nothing,
say nothing. I’m no crazy.
I’ve never reported UFOs
or sightings of Jesus
in the high patterns of clouds,
never claimed to see ghosts
no matter what strange
small town I was in for the night.
But there it is again,
and another to the west,
falling like a river
of lava, molten stone
or the last moments
of some fierce angel,
trailing his wings of disappearing
light. I radio it in this time
and head for home, instruments
casting their electronic glow
across my still face,
the silent cabin. Later
they tell me it was meteors;
the Draconid swarm,
they call them, a once-in-
a-lifetime near-miss.
They tell me I was
not the only one. But I stare
into darkness until darkness wins.
I know demons when I see them,
those failed angels trailing feathers
as they blaze the last of their light.
I know demons when I see them
and I know when they are mine.

from Rattle #23, Summer 2005


Anne Haines: “I live in a tiny house in Bloomington, Indiana with two cats, two guitars, and too many books for my own good. Because I work in an academic library, I am pretty much surrounded by books and the people who love them 24/7 (life is good). I have been writing ever since I was, as an acquaintance once put it, ‘knee-high to a toad-frog’—on my best days, I still love it just as much as I did then.”

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