Co-Tenanting: Poem by Shawn StJean

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by Shawn StJean

 

A horde of half-a-hundred dragonflies, aloft, cuts off my path

across the unmown meadow this morning–

A Virginia species, unknown to me up in the fenced and gated North.

I’ve only ever seen them singly, or in pairs, and avoided the dangerous-looking bodies,

sometimes blue, or green, or yellow, or gray, ominously named “Sewing Needles.”

I don’t know their business, or their defense of it

any more than I know my own today,

whether to work on a poem, change out an old Ford starter,

go to the hospital for multiple stings, or spend the hours

missing beloved friends that miles part me from.

 

Yet, I don’t slacken or hurry my pace or even close my eyes, swishing the long grass

and dampening my feet and legs through shoes and pants, wading into the buzzing cloud.

 

It’s not bravery: I’ve been stung, in younger days, by many bees at once.

And learned to fear tramping around hot junkyards without proper care.

A body can only take so much of that punishment.

Many species treat proximity to their hives as an incursion,

not bothering to distinguish who owns from who rents, when we’re all just renting anyway,

and a rusting iron hulk of car returning to earth belongs more to nature than man.

 

If these fliers follow the rule of most other insects,

much more power they hold, than the Huey Helicopters they resemble in minature.

A few could level the plain of my body, erase the borders, defoliate it as thoroughly as a napalm strike.

 

No, I go forward because I’ve never yet been harmed by a dragonfly:

Logic and ignorance, or innocence, put together, as simple as a child’s.

In school they classify this as an inductive leap,

In church they pronounce it faith.

Me, after all this time, I still call it trust.

Inside square, engineered buildings you learn all the fancy names for what you were born doing.

Outside, you just do them.

 

My body and I emerge untouched beyond the border of the meadow, unstung,

without even a touch-and-go landing on the shock of golden hair many bugs find fascinating.

We continue to amble along the landlord’s property, seeking our business,

it carrying me through the trees, over the running creek, along and past the fences,

as if we own the place.  Because, for now, this year, this hour, today,

we really do. 

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