From Fresh Water – Port Meadow – Dragonflies

By David Morley

in memory of Nicholas Farrar Hughes, 1962-2009

Port Meadow

Walking to Woodstock Road from Wytham Wood
where leaf-worlds welled from all the wood’s wands,
we talked salmon, midges, floodmeadows, the energy system
cindering softly under us, slow-cooking the marshlands.
The gate ought to be here. The map said so.
That map back at my flat… Look, there’s a spot
somewhere this way where sheep shove through.
See those fieldfares and redwings? They landed last night.
Then a step within a fence nobody bothered with for years
or knew, except the sheep. So Nick stepped up
and through, and there on the other side, two horses
with thrilled-up ears, barged him skilfully to a stop.
I said that gate was around here – pointing a mile or two.
Worth the way – Nick’s arms across both horses – to know these two.

This water’s steep and deep. There are signs in artery red.
Their letters pump with advice. But it’s June and we have trod
ourselves senseless sampling some imaginary species of coleoptera…

So, there are our cautions slung down like life-vests by the river
and with stone-drop certainty we launch out from a hanging ledge
to collide with a chill so stinging it was like flinging your body
into a bank of nettles. Then head-butting the surface to see
at eyelash-level the whiphands of Common Backswimmers surge
and sprint, each footing a tiny dazzle to prism.
Then these
sparking ornaments hovering then islanding on our shoulders
each arching its thorax into a question: what is the blue
that midnights all blue? How can crimson redden before you?
The old map mutters that Here Be Dragons, and it lies.

Here be Darters, Skimmers, drawn flame. Here, are Dragonflies.

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