44: Swatting Flies

44: Swatting Flies

44: Swatting Flies

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Swatting Flies

by Austin Smith

You think of yourself now as having been
A sweet boy, the kind of kid
Who wouldn’t hurt a fly,
But let us not forget that
In summer you kept a swatter nearby.

You liked the feel of the wire
Handle in your hand,
How easy it was
To wield, light and nimble
As a riding crop.

The business end was a square
Of blue plastic mesh, stippled
To let the air pass through
So that in the act of wrath
You didn’t fan the fly to safety.

Granted, most days the killing
You did was passive. Sometimes
You even swatted your own bare calf,
Leaving a red welt
You felt vanish

Like the ring of condensation
Evaporating off the armrest
Of the chair in which you sat reading
Lord of the Flies
But don’t you remember

Those afternoons something
That had nothing to do with the flies
Incited you to slaughter them?
Then you had no sympathy for the ones
Who wrung their hands among

The breadcrumbs in the kitchen,
Begging you for mercy,
Or the ones you found
Making love on the windowsills
In the upstairs bedrooms

Where they had believed
Themselves safe.
The only thing that stopped you
Killing them was when
The blue square grew

So clogged with the dead
The living felt a breath of air
That made them take flight
Like people who flee a house
Moments before the drone strike.


“Swatting Flies", from FLYOVER COUNTRY by Austin Smith. Copyright © 2018 by Austin Smith. Used by permission of Princeton University Press.