My Mother calls them June Bugs, they never come in May, while Anglers call them March brown Mayfly, after the pallor of brown that comes after the frost.
Mayflies have a proneness to metaphor, Aristotle named them after their lifespan, Dayfly, but the nymph phase is years of eating decaying matter in lake beds— a black life— so all the poems start with the ascent.
I want to imagine first the shedding of the sheer brown water skin for the terrestrial skin. The skin with its many gills is torn by the wings. It floats. The Mayfly sits on this carcass of itself like it’s a raft. Before there is flight, there is the moment before the old skin sinks, the Mayfly considers with its light sensitive eyes, which told it to shed its skin, the sky when it is most itself, a spectacle of space vacated by light slowly in all its refracted shades, the brown edges of everything are golden— the water, the cattails, all the other Mayflies born in the same instant, are sharpest now, when light is most opposite the visible world, before it’s gone.
They feather the surface of the water, a golden wave of animation, quadrillions of wings in fading light, all this awkward flight seen obliquely, describing only order.
It was a normal swarm for the Michigan area. It was on the radar that reads the weather. I was eleven and I was shielding my eyes when one of the millions was inside, flitting against my soft palate. It tasted dehydrated. It didn’t bite— eating parts are vestigial in a Mayfly. My tongue struggled with the insect. I felt its dimensions and its weightlessness, I opened my eyes to the swarm, to take the frail wings in my fingers and throw this one back, these threads of some vast tapestry, this beat in an elaborate choreography, yeah, I had the thing itself. Still, I can only say what all the poets say, the Mayfly, it’s many, it makes a person lonesome.