Floaters

FLOATERS:

Spots, threads,
fragments of cobwebs.
Transparent things
that swoop and swim.

Animals? Amoeba?
When you try
to look at them,
away they fly.

Shadows cast
on the meniscus.
Acrobats, tumbling
in a curved circus.

Actors, on the screen
of your eye.
Observing existence,
they live and die.

“Mouches volantes”
(Tr. “Flying flies”).
Shimmering ideals
you will never realise.

Coiled, waiting, on the
periphery of the known.
Hopes, dreams, you will
never pin down.

Inveigling, entrancing;
unmistakeably free.
Stare all you like,
you won’t catch me!

I can’t remember where and when I saw it, but I recently came across the French phrase “Mouches volantes”, and the translation of it as “Flying flies”.  The phrase struck me as rather odd.  I didn’t know whether it was an inaccurate translation from the French, or whether it was a case of the word-order in English being different, but I couldn’t think of any similar phrases in English – “swimming swimmers”? “dancing dancers”? . . .  I started looking for more information on the phrase, and suddenly found myself reading about “floaters” – those black spots or specks in front of the eyes that most people have glimpses of from time to time.  In fact, if you really try to look at these phantom images, they turn out to be much more varied than you might think.  The idea for a poem suddenly suggested itself . . .

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