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Do not hurt him
unhappy fly forever
wringing his sad hands.

- Issa

Today, this morning, now, I think of flies.
And Sister Carmella. I think of her.
And dirt. Me this old man on his porch
Remembering St. Mary's, sixth grade, and why
We have flies. "To keep us alert. To keep
Us on our toes. Otherwise, my boy, we would
Be lazy, we would be no better
Than dirt. Does Richard understand?" He did.
He doesn't. He thinks of flies on his porch
And why they buzz about his head, his eyes,
His ears. He sees but dimly in fly weather.
They join their little hands in prayer or could
But probably don't. They rub their hands in joy,
Or they're forever a neurotic mess,
Their noise alone enough to keep me from
The Times or watching birds as they scratch
In sand. But not another word. I stop.
Issa was right, that haiku of his on flies.
And yet, as Sister said: I stay awake.
I swat and slash and duck.
                                     Oh, hell, face it:
Because of flies and dirt and Sister
Whoever, I had to start my own church
with my own prayers and commandments:

Do not hurt me,
unhappy me forever
wringing my sad hands.

It doesn't work and I am the only member,
but at least I can't be excommunicated.

Richard E. Lee
[from Pearl, Number 14, Fall/Winter 1991]