Glow-worms: as soon as you think you’ve seen them, they blink off | Helen Sullivan


As soon as you’re sure you imagined them, on they go again

“Thou aeronautical boll weevil / Illuminate yon woods primeval,” the Mills Brothers sang in 1952, imploring glow-worms to “Light the path below, above / And lead us on to love”. John Keats, comparing the fairness of goddess Psyche with the bright white moon and the evening star (spoiler: she is fairer than both), refers to the star as an “amorous glow-worm of the sky”. Seamus Heaney poked a glow-worm with a blunt stick and “a tiny brightening den lit the eye” – turning the stick into a wand.

Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo. I’m in Mozambique, it is dark, and there is a wedding tomorrow. I have just had my first – and I don’t know it yet, but only – drink in a coconut. I chose Fanta Grape. Outside at the restaurant, I see my first glow-worms. It is possible that they are fireflies, but they’re still: on the branches of what I hope are hibiscus trees, but then again, I would happily plant a hibiscus in every memory I have.

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