Narrative Poem: Lightning Bugs

Updated on May 4, 2018

Lightning Bugs or Firelies

Lightning bugs or fireflies are not insects or bugs. They are flying beetles with lanterns of light, a bio-chemical reaction, sending out invitations to the opposite sex. Living in California, the lightning bug is one thing I miss seeing in the summertime, so I could only reminisce. Outside on a warm summer night in Philadelphia, my friends and I would chase the lightning bugs and try to grab a few to collect and explore. It all felt so innocent, a favorite activity for a young boy, although my mother didn't see it that way.

Poem: Lightning Bugs

When I was a kid,
lightening bugs
meant a summer night
and playing hide and seek
with my friends.

They’re called fireflies
my mom would say,
and stop chasing
those poor things.

I ignored my mother
and put them
inside a glass jar
and forgot to punch holes
in the lid.

Then I would wonder
why their precious lights
went out,
why they didn’t flutter

I’d shake the jar
to wake them up,
to make them glow again,
as if I were
their creator.

Then I’d hide in the bushes
when it wasn’t my turn to seek,
and only later
would I catch more
when they signaled for me
from the sky.

Sometimes I’d hold them
tightly in my hands,
feeling their tickling bodies
to break loose.

I told my friends
not to pull off their
hard beetle wings
or smash their fiery

As the years
I stopped chasing
those luminescent

I no longer collected
and tortured
their fragile

I stopped calling them
lightening bugs,
no longer hid
from my friends
and tried to control
other living things.

Fireflies, my mother said.
Don’t try to catch them,
just watch and enjoy.

Questions & Answers

  • What is the plot of the narrative poem, "Lightning Bugs"?

    It is the young boy’s relationship with lightning bugs, and how it changes as he becomes an adult.


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    • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

      Mark Tulin 

      5 months ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Finnegan. Thanks for sharing your story. Your dad seemed to have a lot of compassion.

    • wpcooper profile image

      Finnegan Williams 

      5 months ago from Bakersfield

      Funny. I have a lightning bug poem or two somewhere. I have an essay where I talk about growing up in Maryland and going out and catching them myself. We would put holes in the tops of the jars but in the morning the bugs were always gone. I think my father set them free while we were sleeping.

    • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

      Mark Tulin 

      9 months ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Thanks as always, Diane.

    • Diane Denison profile image

      Diane Denison 

      9 months ago from Cincinnati Ohio

      Love this poem Mark. It feels like a fresh breath air of innocence dancing in my head. Thank you. Yes I am sharing it

    • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

      Mark Tulin 

      12 months ago from Santa Barbara, California

      I’m glad it made you think of childhood, Marlene. Some of the best years of our lives.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      12 months ago from USA

      Your poem reminds me of my childhood, living in New Jersey, my siblings and I would run around chasing and catching lightning bugs in jars. It was fun. Reading your poem was fun. And now I want to call my brothers and ask them if they remember chasing lightning bugs... fireflies in the summer.

    • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

      Mark Tulin 

      15 months ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Gloworms sound cool, too. It’s nice that there are still those innocent childhood memories that still float around us.

    • Being PU profile image

      Being PU 

      15 months ago from India

      fireflies.....I call them gloworms. I miss them. this one tugged at my memories. thank you

    • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

      Mark Tulin 

      17 months ago from Santa Barbara, California

      You’re welcome, Ron. Me, too. But I haven’t seen them since I moved to California.

    • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

      Mark Tulin 

      19 months ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Thanks, Shyron. I agree. Now, we don't have to own or collect them. We could just admire from afar.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 

      19 months ago from Texas

      Mark, I too caught fireflies, until I realized how fragile life is and how easy it can end.

      I love your poem

      Blessings my friend.

    • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

      Mark Tulin 

      20 months ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Thanks, Dora.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      20 months ago from The Caribbean

      Great childhood story told in verse. The playful poetic form is so appropriate. Good work!

    • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

      Mark Tulin 

      20 months ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Thanks Li-Jen for reading Lightning Bugs.

    • Li-Jen Hew profile image

      Li-Jen Hew 

      20 months ago

      Hello Mark. Glad you followed what your mum said and perspective changes. Thank you for sharing your story through your poem. Haha, lightening bugs, cool name! :)

    • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

      Mark Tulin 

      20 months ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Eventually, I started to agree with my mother. I couldn't deny her wisdom any longer.

    • manatita44 profile image


      20 months ago from london

      I agree with your mother. Nevertheless you were young and very sincere. Much love.

    • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

      Mark Tulin 

      20 months ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Tim, I’m glad you highlighted the point about awareness and compassion. That’s one good thing about growing older. Thanks for your excellent feedback.

    • Tim Truzy info4u profile image

      Tim Truzy 

      20 months ago from U.S.A.

      Thanks, Mark. Great memories. I believe my mom said the same thing to me and I did the same thing: catch those little fellows and watch them glow in a glass jar.

      But I like where your poem goes: we are now enlightened, recognizing that we are merely tiny creatures compared to our universe; we have the fire inside now from awareness. Now, we must bring light to darkness around us. When we chance fire flies in the North Carolina evening, your poem will be remembered.

      Beautiful poem with powerful images.



    • Mark Tulin profile imageAUTHOR

      Mark Tulin 

      20 months ago from Santa Barbara, California

      Thanks, Hari.

    • shprd74 profile image

      Hari Prasad S 

      20 months ago from Bangalore

      Mark, Lovely memories captured. Retro stuff. Thanks for writing.

      - Hari


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