Silent fireflies float their luminescence
through the walnut trees and pines,
Playing their jagged rhythms over a wide space.
The dark, up-reaching limbs of the walnut
Sway and subside with surges of the night winds;
Beyond the trees, the stars, hazy stars tonight,
Preside in their motionless houses.
Far from redoubts, the thunder of fireworks
comes to this place, too.
The sporadic sounds do not affray the rhythmic fireflies,
nor assail the dark, reeling trees.
What is patriotism? Was it a poem once, or ever?
Later tonight, perhaps true thunder
and a rain will come;
And tomorrow evening, signaling still for mates
The fireflies will display again their unburned lights.
James J. Hill was retired, lived outside of Baltimore, Maryland, served as the anti-death penalty legislative adviser for the mid-Atlantic chapter of Amnesty International, and was a free-lance writer when this poem appeared.