Back to Issue Twenty-Seven.

Jesus Bug


Summer at dusk was a hymn
before I knew what to.

Under my covers: a dozen fireflies,
a dozen air-holes punched

by my dad’s screwdriver.
Minnows in green water

swam behind the sticky white streaks
of the pickle label I’d tried to peel

to make for them a perfect clear
home. My mom’s hand in my hair:

Sweet boy, she purred,
They’ll die in there.

Outside, the trees screamed
with pleasures I couldn’t name.

In the morning, the grass was soaked.
The creek was clogged with frog eggs.

The boy from across the ravine led me
through the culvert & into the woods.

He built us a fort from fallen branches.
I pretended it was our home & lit a fire.

In one of my mom’s pots,
I boiled crawdads in creek-water,

watched their bodies scuttle ever-backwards
from danger. I knew better than to stare

when the boy hiked further in to piss, turned
away, one hand caught in his black curls.

When he came back & sat by me,
I plucked a tick from his smooth leg.

We watched the jesus bugs
skim along the water’s skin.

It flooded that summer.
Our ravine swamped itself to the brim.

The baby water-snakes hatched
when no one was looking.

After my dad left for work,
I stripped to my underwear,

extended one foot out over the flood,
& closed my eyes. The muddy water

spurted up my nose. I scrambled out
& tried again, my face all squinched up

with faith. I didn’t wait for God’s face
to trouble the waters.

I thought a miracle took work,
a jar & a quick hand.

Something you could catch
or learn. Like skipping stones

or making a blade of grass sing.
Each time I lurched back up for breath,

the water skaters were dancing with ease
into a halo around themselves.

Brandon Thurman is the author of the chapbook Strange Flesh (Quarterly West, 2018). His poetry can be found in Nashville Review, the Journal, Rhino Poetry, the Blueshift Journal, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and others. He lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas with his husband and son. You can find him online at or on Twitter @bthurman87.


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