Rain Bugs

Natalie Poem

Natalie Garro, 129 TESS

There is nothing beautiful about the way
the rain bugs
come in swarms,
land on my skin,
thick bodies
and skittering legs
crawling over my flesh.

They throw themselves at the light.
I turn off the fluorescents,
hoping they will be drawn to the street lamps.

I light candles.

The insects hurl themselves into the flames.
Their wings smell
like burning hair
as they ignite;

and the rain bugs
launch themselves
into the fire
over and over.

This is the part where I’m supposed to wonder
what it would be like
to exist in darkness,
to crave the light so desperately

I would fall into the flames
over and over.

But I know darkness intimately,

I think about all the times
I threw myself into the light,
even when it burned me –
even when darkness
would have been
the easier option,

because darkness is empty.

I think about all the times
empty wasn’t enough.
I have burned myself alive

to rise from the ashes.

Buddhism teaches
we are all born within the cycle of Samsara:
the infinite series of birth and death and rebirth –
each human incarnation

released into the universe
as smoke –
until we exit this cycle through enlightenment

or Nirvana.
With every new life
we are born to the mercy of our karma.

They say a human life is the best life,
because it is the only existence from which one can exit

And I wonder what one must atone for
when they are born an insect.

And I wonder
what I must atone for.
And I wonder if I am atoning.
If I am better today
than I was in my last lifetime.
If I was once
one of those rain bugs
throwing myself into the fire.
If less has changed
than I imagine has changed.

Read Natalie’s previous articles Grit, Laundry, On the Funeral of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, and Gulaap: A Lengthy Reflection on my First 4 Months as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

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