Chasers, Caerulae, Club-Tails, Elegans
and Parthenopes, Mercuriales, Skimmers,
Ear Cutters, Devil’s Needles, Adderbolts,
Horse-Stingers, Eye-Pokers – your varied names.
You’ve hung around three hundred million years;
you can move in six directions; hover;
fly backwards and you switch from side to side.
Motion camouflage paralyses prey.
Your ocelli are attracted to bling:
even to a shiny, granite graveslab,
Emperors, Blue-eyed Darners, Globe-Skimmers,
Freeline Emeralds, Dropwings, Brown Hawkers
and even Common Whitetails – your females
(dimorphic) are deceptively like males.
You live most of your brief life as a nymph,
mating in tandem, you create heart rings,
like suave, romantic nicotine addicts.
Your adolescents breathe through their recta,
propelling themselves by the expulsion
of water from the anus. Cannibals,
you can eat one fifth of your weight a day.
Your obelisk posture avoids solar
radiation, yet before you are named,
you can become extinct, though ancestors
can return on your winged frames,
as the Samurai believed, adopting
your form on lacquered and gilded helmets,
in homage to the hovering rice gods.
In Wales you follow snakes and stitch up wounds;
in Sweden, sneak up on lying children;
your songs revived Mayan goddess, Ix chel.
And, when a mosquito tried to steal blood
from Emperor Jimmu, a demoiselle
zapped it. Henceforth, the lands below were called
Akitsushimai: Dragonfly Islands.
Today you shimmer round me and I know
your shy presence is a volt from the blue;
your iridescence a magical gift
like a glass goblet brought back from Venice;
given to one who may never go there.