By Richard Boughton
Three times in a handful of mornings I have been visited by a dragonfly at my table in the yard. It is a black dragonfly, of medium size as dragonflies go, and seems, just as I am, a creature of habit, for he comes to visit just as soon as I sit down and take my first sip of coffee and light my first cigarette of the day.
Do I appear to imply in the above that this is the same dragonfly on each occasion? Well, I intend to imply no such thing. Rather, I state the matter as a fact. He is the same. He is black, as I have stated, he is of medium size, and he comes as if by appointment, or perhaps as somehow appointed.
Moreover, he possesses a certain character that cannot escape notice, nor allow him to be judged as an anonymous sort of creature. He sits always, for instance, at the top of the chair opposite mine. On the top right, in fact, facing me. Not on the side, not on the seat, not in the middle or on the left. He sits on the top right, as if returning to a personal notch in space and time. Nor does he sit only (and herein lies further proof of his authenticity). Rather, he sits facing me for some minutes, then rises to hover perhaps a foot above the chair top, then returns to his seat (same notch, same groove) to examine me anon with the same carefulness, ever-so-focused and yet so perfectly serene.
He is devoted, this fellow, a reliable bug. He inspires me, and conveys in his simple presence something of magic, a hypnotic effect, so that my own mind falls back in repose on the stillness of fragile wings, resting, rising, moving gracefully in space and by a will not my own, as if attentive to a conductor’s baton or a wizard’s wand. I depart as air; I shake my white locks at the runaway sun; I effuse my flesh in eddies; and drift it in lacy jags.
How long like this are we silent together? I know not the duration, but seem lost (and yet found) in a shapeless parcel of time, a lotus tree moment. I think at once that the dragonfly is my brother, dead these 27 years and four months, returning now not in the splendour one might expect, but as this homely creature all dressed in black. But this, you see, is just how he was, and what he would do. Much of beauty is no more than pretence. Earth laughs in flowers, Emerson says; but I say that most of the world only comes around in full force when the rest of it goes away for a time.
People are continually given over to the notion that in order to seek something, they must do something. They must move their arms, move their legs, struggle through strenuous courses, as if revelation were a cliff to climb or peace of mind a set of rapids to cross. We go on treks – the river trek, the jungle trek, the mountain trek – and come away with the reward of a passing flush of hormones, sticky with an effusion of sweat.
And all the while this black dragonfly waits, as placid as the Sphinx, in filling the whole world through the medium of silence from his humble throne in my yard, and echoes for the edification of he who will simply stop and see, the words that once rested on another mortal’s tongue:
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fiber your blood.
Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.
Walt Whitman (Song of Myself)
Richard can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.