Erotic Wingbeats from a Swarm of Gnats

Sarah Tourjee


It’s a hum deep in the wood. Our wings curve toward it. Imagine our lack. Imagine our loneliness—all of us. Imagine our feelings. Our seeking form fall, our form. We dance, we press into moisture, into skin if we find it, and then move. The song again. We curve our wings. The sun lights through us, through the mass of us, like a shine through a fog.

Now at mid-life, I was born two months ago. I emerged from the egg. The earth changes. If timed I may see a whole season before frost, before—

My death hangs over me, our deaths over all of us. A collective mourning, a collective enlightenment—my whole life is today. So follow the song, make clear an intention (the continuation of life). And what of skin, if we find it? Those on the periphery shoot headlong to feel it, moisture, warmth. The sweat of a body. But those overcome overstay and stick, wings to human wrist. The body, unwanting, undoes them. We are fewer every moment. We are many every moment. I will never know myself.

But ask anyway, please ask. Who am I? My name is gnat. I am insect. My life revolves around water and a hum—the wingbeat of love. Will I even know when I find it? We fly together as a cloud but without so choosing. Search the rotted tree trunks, search the liquefied fruit and lay there, rest there, nest there. To soak in juice and not drown there requires such strength, such will to a future, be it brief if ever. But we’re never alone, never lonely. We search and arrive at each other.


Someone says, "What's the point of a life so brief, so unknown, so haphazard." It's true my voice is not particular, I could be any one of us. Our desires are similar, linear, there are only a few things— moisture, leaves, or roots, or (shhh) flesh.

At dusk we assemble, trade the voice, trade give take make, our bodies (the swarm, the ghost). This makes you uncomfortable.

You think, audibly, into the cloud, "but you'll die soon." To that I say, won't you?

Well, we're not to remind you, we're not to haunt. Instead we flirt. Your hum, our calling, our dance—and your mouth, the source. The vibration of your throat. Are we really fooled, or are we curious? Are you trying to fool us, or are you curious? How could we breach this boundary—the enormity of a species, the enormity of my whole being folding completely into the crease of your thumb's bend?

The possibility of my body crushing, blood releasing into your palm, without you even noticing, without even a wince.

Don't deny that you think of this when you hum.


In wood we are home in displacement—the wood that falls, the ground that gives to it, and our organisms, unloved but humming. You hear it, you try to claim it. Don't say that you see. The swarm is called the ghost, the erotic soul of the dead. And inside the haunt you can find me, internal, fully plural, riding sound.

Sarah Tourjee is the author of the chapbook, Ghost, published by Anomalous Press, and a manuscript titled, Sam Says, Sam. Her short fiction and prose can be found in Quarterly West, Conjunctions, H_NGM_N, PANK, Spork, Wigleaf, and elsewhere. She lives online at and on land in Providence, RI.