Bunching Flies

I had a friend once
in college,
she was from Arizona,
Flagstaff I think –
and her family lived way out there
on the playa
or the mesa
or in the thorn-scrub
whatever they call it –
that flat country out there
in the wide unknown.

Reba’s family lived in a colony,
simple tract homes in neat rows like tablets in blister packs
stacked out to the horizon.
And in the summers
they were greeted by an
abundance of flies.
On my co-ed’s account,
this wasn’t just the odd
housefly,
these guys came in swarms,
and you couldn’t sit still for
more than a fraction
without having to swat at
one buzzing by.

Now, I don’t know
if it’s behavioral adaption
or the peculiar ingenuity
of the desert-dweller,
but Reba’s family figured out
an inspired method to
keeping these bugs away from
their skin.
How?

One corner of their
living room is dedicated
to garbage.

Yes.

They keep all their trash
piled up inside their house,
in one corner.
To where all those flies stay
over there, in the corner,
away from us,
she says with pride,
eyes all amytal blue
like drops of water color
untinctured by any hint of
sarcasm.

We call it bunching flies,
she confessed.
Bunching flies.

Now, of course
I roared
when I first heard this story,
it’s been decades now
since we hung out in the dorms,
but I still can’t go for more than a week or so
without thinking back to it.
All of our garbage,
how we keep it so close –
how much refuse we
layer in front of ourselves,
rehearsing it in our minds daily
deliberately
methodically
until we no longer can see
the vivid expanse of the
majestic mojave.
No matter the season, all we really hear now
is the daily hum,
the perpetual
buzzing as we swat and wave at our endless swarm of
flies.