I don't know how to behave
in the face of ultimate things.
It's the kind of ignorance that creates
a sound, like a blind prehistoric fish
that hums to the passing of an ocean storm.
Les died four months ago, tired of emotion.
We talked to him separately
but he was gone in the warmth of the drip.
Today at 100 degrees the smell
of burnt grass sharpened because I watered
the yard uselessly, invoking the essence.
The dragonfly is the enemy of the mosquito
and veers at first slowly
with wiry wrath, then again slowly.
His wings fan the fire,
the mosquito crackles into flame.
Everybody knows what a non-combustible world
would look like, everybody knows the thing
privately feared isn't private at all
but a common insect on a recurring flight.
Lester's hand was as light as a nest.
Bad news, there is no quality
of life. The drugged body of a dying man
drinks its own urine. My body grieved
that such a shock of watching should enter me.
Right up my spine, into consideration.
The mosquito in the shadow
of the dragonfly is already part of the dragonfly.
The wingbeat is a murmur of not knowing
how to behave otherwise.
Darting, the dragonfly lives. The heat kills
the reverie that kills the real.
Ron Slate's latest book of poetry, The Incentive of the Maggot, was published in April 2005. He is the chief operating officer of a biotechnology startup in Massachusetts.
Clickhere to visit Robert Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project site.Please note: Because Slate's backlog of accepted poems is substantial, poetry editor Robert Pinsky will not be reading new submissions until December 2005.