Blue dragonflies buzz me like warplanes.
Their wings taste of rock candy,
smell like cellophane, hum
like a dentist’s drill. I want it
in my palms, that isinglass, I want it
rooted to my bones. I want right-angled
flight. Their only cargo’s that long body, the burden
of flight itself—I had it once. The plank
gave way; the bridge was tall; the wind
was stiff. And I resigned. Because it was over
I was quite safe. When water came up
like asphalt I barely splashed. That was it.
I still feel that wind and the ache
in my shoulderblades for want of wings.
I still feel height and the clarity of it.

The drowned women in my dreams
have me at last; weed-strung hair,
weighted feet. Hope bloats:
I’ll carry them home, numb limbs
and all, tuck them into my sound
sheets. Comb their snarled hair
to silk. Stir them soup. Stoke
the woodstove. And sing, sing
lu lu lulu lu, hush-a-bye and
tie a yellow ribbon and this train
don’t pull no sleepers. Till they’re dreaming
in their soggy beds, dreaming of me, parched
field of brushfire grasses, bleached gold
and dangerous. Wave after wave
of heat, wave after wave of bodies
colliding in midair, torn wings still
better than ours, better than ours.


First published in Mischief, Caprice, and Other Poetic Strategies, Red Hen Press, 2004. Copyright © Melissa Stein

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