I'm a martyr, spoke the dragonfly
into the tepid evening air, her words
cut through by swarms of gnats near our heads.
That is what she meant / she accepted
martyrdom as her plight, as I / her daughter,
no longer a nymph, oding before her
as if I expected something other
than the transparency of her wings;
my mandibles as serrated as my remarks
about the life she chose—she flies backwards.
We could have both been twenty then.
I was twenty, the evening sky wide
balanced and agile in the air—I knew I'd never
be / never utter / I'm a martyr / to my own
daughter—her larvae nine years
in the making, like the nine months
my mother claimed it took to make me
when she herself was only twenty. Married
in August / born in March / finally
I did the math. Seven months—
dragonflies only survive
for seven months.
She couldn't be twenty. I'm twenty.
Our heads heavy with sight—
all eyes, seeing in every direction,
what came before, what will happen next,
who's flying beside us now—the maddening
whine of a mosquito sends me into a dive
close to the earth as I watch my mother
hover above me, too timid to swoop.