When I was young my father wrote a song
Called “Fireworks and Fireflies.”
To me, then, they were sisters—
Sparks of magic lighting the July night
After the rose and orange, gold and pale green
Had darkened out of sight.
First the explosions like anemones,
Bright tentacles waving, stretching, fading gleam by gleam into the black,
Or golden palm trees sprouting, growing tall, then sparkling out.
A world in the sky.
In the silence following the finale,
Blue and green blinked in the grass,
Shimmered up and past the trees until
I could not separate
Bug from star or earth from space.
Fireworks and fireflies.
Today, I understand they’re enemies.
The first the sort of artificial bright
That silences the second’s speech.
The first lit to represent a nation
That settled the second’s swamps and meadows
Into concrete-coated tombs.
The first a literal poisoning of the air.
The second a community of beings
Whose light is just a show of life.
Fireworks or fireflies?
It is the work of growing
To separate wonder from spectacle,
True value from false promise.
But two thousand species are blinking out
While this year, in the Capital,
The men in charge are planning
Their biggest-ever pyrotechnic show.
So, you nations of the world
Who love your developments, and your displays,
Which will you choose?
Fireworks, or fireflies?
Image Ching Ching Tsui / CC BY 2.0