credit: S. Rae
A Day of Dragonflies
It was Sunday, scores of dragonflies, each inscribing its own
arabesque in flight, as if it was music they danced to,
whizzing and flashing through all moods, here manic,
there depressive, healing sufferers in their wake,
as long as the afflicted paid close enough attention, took note
of leaping lizards, the tortoise who pressed its right foot
down on a stem to better bite off the flower top,
and praised the palms, their fronds eternally flirting
with winds the dragonflies played in,
dashing to songs only they could hear,
older than Sumerian, older than Sanskrit, Etruscan,
older than a flute made of nearly transparent
bird bone, older even than weeping and wailing,
older than beating a hairy chest and roaring.
A hummingbird, whose heart weighs less than a penny,
will die if it goes a few hours without eating – its flame
lit to flicker and feed.
What is the bodily fluid inside insects,
and does it move by a mechanics
that is heartless?
Today we are waiting for tonight
to release the nematodes in the yard to eat fleas
and let the dogs – ten parts dignity, ten parts joy,
the rest hells bells – lick us, our wounds,
while we stroke their ears to get closer
to the higher realms. A flea
will swim in wine until it dies, lonely.
And who knows how many I’ve swallowed?
Dear loneliness, if we have to live together,
please wear the tiny polka dot gloves my daughter wore
one fancy day decades ago.
Give me a ballpeen hammer so that
I can dent things my own way, help me measure
the distance the moon moves without fanfare
away from the earth each year, and, please,
share the equation that balances
swamp and drain, villainy and virtue,
make and break.
It is dusk, the grass silky where I walk barefoot
in the postcard of a city far away.
Swans glide on a lake in light
so painterly you might as well call it wet,
the way it bathes the scene in Renoir rouge,
as if the photographer had turned the sun and the moon
inside out and found there the very first wine,
neither red nor white, but a stirring.
The buildings lining the shore reflect eternity,
their windows singing Chopin’s “Remembrance.”
Believe me when I say the light is blooming.
Believe me when I say the photographer has given birth
to rose swans suspended forever in a pink evening, waiting,
waiting with abandon, as if they have abandoned time.
And I alone invited into the frame kneel in the still glade
and sip dew drop by dew drop, kiss by intoxicating kiss.
I want to know why there are two toy butterfly nets
in the bathroom of a house with no children
and why today the fisherman on the beach hooded
the resident blue heron in a towel.
I want to know why an instant ago a ten-pound lizard
on a palm tree out my window could rest head down
in a requiem from gravity.
Animals used to be held responsible for their behavior,
thus in New Haven in 1662, a man and his harlots – three heifers,
two sows, three sheep – all found guilty, hanged for their crimes.
I want to know why Arthur Conan Doyle believed in fairies.
and who came up with sprites, elves, blue jets,
and dart leaders for the names of lightning.
Keats said, “A fact is not a truth until you love it.”
I want to believe the etymology of “heart,” belongs
to a butterfly loyal to a single flower.
To revive droopy blooms, cut the ends,
submerge them in a sink of water under dinner plates
for two hours, and voilà.
Why did the French give us the phrases carte blanche,
noblesse oblige, and laissez faire, which we cruelly yoked to capitalism?
Thank god Henri Rousseau gave us “The Sleeping Gypsy,”
a dark woman dreaming in the dirt beside her oud,
a lion behind her, stock still, as if taxidermied, a white marble
with a black dot for an eye, ignoring the woman,
looking straight at us, terrified.
If it is nothing to find dreams flooded
With tides edging higher under a moon
Fuller than grief
Then what can we make
Of rocks shattered on the shore
Of hummingbirds disappearing into mist over the water
Darting away from flowers
Like souls of the just departed
To keep the five bleached quahog shells
From our day at the beach
The sixth couldn’t save you
Though I tried to fill it with magic
When I left it in your hand
Before you left us
Hermit crabs scrabble the sand
In search of larger homes
They can carry on their backs
Their particular hump and claws
Meanwhile nothing I can spell
Death of the everlasting kind
And those were pearls that were his eyes
Repeats itself in my mind like the wrackline
The ocean writes to keep its own time.
To Fill Time
To dig for quahogs, to feel their edges like smiles
in sea mud and pull them up into a bucket.
To feel the wind as a friend, to feel current as luck,
to ignore the lines Cancer and Capricorn cutting up the globe.
To know the lie in “names can never hurt you.”
To be a gull breezing the blue, eating nothing but clouds.
To measure your ties to the past by the strength of cobwebs.
To haunt the widow’s walk its twelve narrow windows,
fitted with green cloth shades and lacy curtains.
To watch the harbor, a place later named
a Superfund site full of PCBs.
To wonder if that water you swam in summer after aimless
summer could get you the way
something got your brother, so fast, so soon.
To bury or burn the whole family you were born to,
and talk to them only through the smoke of letters
you ignite at their graves.
To see a snake with a ladybug on its back.
and grieve anyway.