From Conversation with Murasaki

Dragonfly Intelligence


Hunting at twilight
low on the river
a solitary dragonfly.


Freaked beneath the willow
in fringes of current and lily stem
reflections, a grooved fan advances.

(Nothing on marsh marigold
leaves but some species, gone now,
that took off there).


Wings stained indigo in patches
across slow, dark water.
Gun-metal-male pursues

green armoured filigree for on-the-
wing congress in Vatsyayana’s
‘splitting-the-bamboo’ and ‘clasping’ postures.


Stagnant water. But through open
patches in the muddled dross of
weed rot, she presses her enamel.


A kestrel transects a line across the marshes.
Between the pylons, a dragonfly hunting.
For every life, the circumscription of its trigonometry.


Eye facets shuffle. Wings angle
downward. By the weeds in the
ditch, it basks on asphalt.


Unidentifiable aeshnid holding
its position in a chimney of
mosquitoes. Mild wind at twilight.


I don’t have to know your species
any more than you cognize
my presence: but guess if you

show one stripe more on the thorax
than the Enalagma, you have this
or that identity. Which both matters and doesn’t.


Some old Swedish minister one evening
alighting on taxonomy
that so fitted this insect.


What I never could touch
were those transpositions,
swifter and more supple than

the movement up of sub-
acquatic plant growth, where
the nymph in its armour

threads a passage and by jet
propulsion feeds towards
its ariel, climactic pruinescence.


Lucifer, pupating in the ooze
who never saw light until through slits
in the chitin of his body armour

pumped ichor out through wing
reticulations and thereby reconnected
with the star he was born in.


Experience and combine. What felt hard
underfoot was swept by the same wind
as these dragonflies that cruise against it.


Along the slats of the table in
the garden by the reservoir the
tree has dropped some long stems

where last night I picked these
small sour cherries. And now at
midday, asymmetrically, three

damselflies have settled, and their
sharp blue abdomens – as though titrated
from a noon sky between cloud-breaks

in the water and alongside the slender
curve of cherry stems, still green as
they’re drying – are disposed in patterns.


Indomitable quadrimaculata that blackened
the sky over Malmo in 1890: how is it
I find you, dried mechanically by ants

that have tunnelled from your eyes and
down through the abdomen, wings spread
stiff in permanently grounded aspiration?


Basking in October sun, the red
Sympetrium, brown wings flexed and
fossilised anachronistically on tarmac.


Small exquisite things:
the dragonfly’s line of
inextinguishable poetry.


In apple green and sky blue segments,
the lavender is complemented by a stalk,
suspended vertically, that settles on it for a moment.


Damselflies of Japan: how often did
you leave those green reeds bowing
merely to late wind and shadow?

Your impeccable morning of brittle,
tightly flexed kimonos sinks to twilight
in Hokkaido as the summer on our necks

discloses the perfection of your finish
and all we had surmised of our own
far-fetched and comprehensive incompleteness.


Zygopterids’ pretense, in masquerade,
competing for position in the order amid
seniors that bite harder and more deeply.


One final dragonfly coasting in November
sunlight. No hope. No fear of death.
Simply knows to keep feeding.


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