John Warner Smith

Hunting Dragonflies

If you got lucky you would swat a big one
with a stick that had no other purpose
just after the sun dropped,
when twilight hid the slow pitch.
You would hurry too late
to pinch her thin translucent wings
before she recovered and fluttered,
darting the ghostly plain
even your thoughts would not enter.

One day when a warm beam sealed
the mud pond, you held your breath
and crept through the cattails
to sneak up on a little one,
her wings like brittle leaves.
She wilted in the weight of your hand
until you sighed and let go.
Yet, sooner than you blinked
she crisscrossed the sky,
taking your breath with her,
leaving your scent
dangling like a jingling chime.

If you got lucky, she’d flit right by
your hawk-eyed stare
and tangle in the sweet-briar.
You could reach in—free her
and hold her the way a morning breeze
sways a robin’s nest. Instead,
you put her in your darkened room,
the garden of your dreams,
cluttered with the memory
of your daddy’s heavy coarse hands
and the thump you felt
swatting into a drowning light.