After the last post, Simone sent me a report on a heron rookery, and it mentioned damsel bugs and dragon flies. I wasn’t going to post two poems in a row, but the coincidence with this poem and its damselflies was too strong to resist.
I’m not crazy about the beginning, the old “poet looking for a subject” opener, but once it gets going, I like it a lot. That said, my friend and fellow poet likes the opening just fine. And the way it uses nature is quite different from Mary Oliver’s poem, but the impact just as strong, I think.
I sat, as I do, in the shallows of the lake—
after crawling through the rotting milfoil on the shore.
the materials offered me were not much—
just some cattails where a hidden bullfrog croaked
and a buckhouse made from corrugated tin—
at first I thought I’d have to write the poem of its vapors.
long enough and the world caves in,
sends you something like these damselflies
prickling your chest. And the great ventriloquist
you better study them or else:
how the liquidmetal blue gleams like a motorcycle helmet,
how the markings on the thorax wend like a maze,
their abdomens ringed like polecat tails,
the tip of his latched
to the back of her neck
while his scrawny forelegs wipe his mandible
that drops and shuts like a berth on a train.
But when I tallied his legs he already had six—
Those wiper-legs belonged to a gnat
He was cramming into his mouth. Which took a long time
Because the gnat struggled, and I tried to imagine
A gnat-sized idea of the darkness
Once the mandible closed.
Call me bad gnat: see how every other thing strives—
Even with just two neurons firing the urge.
Then the she-fly’s abdomen swung forward
to take the sperm packet from his thorax,
and he finished chewing
in this position that the field guide calls The Wheel.
Call me empress of the unused bones,
my thighs fumigated by the rank detritus of the shore
while the meal
and The Wheel
interlocked in a chain
in the blue mouth of the sky
in the blacker mouth beyond
While I sat as I do in the shallows of the lake
where sixty thousand damselflies
were being made a half-inch from my heart.