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the gnats

the gnats in Washington Square Park were in their sunlit heues,
juking in the walkway and so every which way: above the children
swinging in the sand collected and sectioned for their soft limbs,
about the hair and ears of the young boys gliding through on their
scooters, about the eyes and fur of the pigeons and dogs
squawking in their own separate ways, finding the bounties they
marked once and swarming like gnats swarm, like egrets swarm
around a sprout of river or their dead. gnats around and abound
in a cluster, drinking the air and giddy with glut, each of them
breath-drunk, pulling away from the mass then back to the center
like a needle stitching black thread around a small planet,
returning to the light which was in two slivers: one band of it
slipping between two far away and many storeyed buildings,
many storied monuments of men, and then split by the bark of a
tree whose name i did not know but in childhood, there was a tall
almond tree that dropped almond fruits into the yard as we swung 
and swat mosquitoes against our arms and slammed jewel
-colored dominoes and so i thought it an almond tree that parted
the light and showed me the gnats, two sections of them in each
slice of gold, citizenry of two new countries, two thousand gnats
paired in giddy thousands each and i was there, a sober, nodding
clock keeping score with the sun, its July-drenched hands
pressed against the walls in my eyes and blurring my vision,
causing the park then to fade like something remembered, like
one might imagine a childhood photograph. the gnats there and
there flickering their silvers as i stood and rocked back and forth
in our game, making them disappear and return in the light all
again until the sun began to dissolve, smaller and down behind
the concrete, the earth pulled up and blocking its work, setting,
and so the gnats, weakened and falling back into the soil,
disappearing for good, the light the sap that called and kept them,
same as the leopard -eyes that held me there, that grew speckled
in the park’s growing shadows, fastened and heavy as the fruit or
the seeds low and invisible in the grass.

For the preferred line breaks and format by the author, this poem is best viewed on a PC screen.

Bernard Ferguson

Bernard is the winner of the 2019 Hurston/Wright College Writers Award, a winner of the 2019 92Y Discover Contest, winner of The Cincinnati Review’s 2019 Robert and Adele Schiff Poetry Prize, winner of The 2019 Breakwater Peseroff Poetry Prize, winner of the 2019 Nâzım Hikmet Poetry Prize, and an Adroit Journal Gregory Djanikian Scholar. He has served as Assitant Editor at Washington Square Review and has received fellowships from the Atlantic Center for the Arts, NYU’s Global Research Initiative, and New York City’s Writers in the Public Schools. He has writing published, featured or forthcoming in The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Narrative, The Southampton Review, Winter Tangerine, and the Best New Poets 2017 anthology, among others.