Dragonflies

My earliest memory is dragonflies. My mother’s shrill voice followed, blending with the sensation of my true self wrenched from my body, all fear, force, and urgency. She believed she’d rescued me from a hazardous insect, swatting in the air until it’s iridescent wings were out of sight. She held me close, bounced me on her hip, cradled my delicate skull in her hand. The sense of its departure was nearly unbearable and I could not control my panic. I shut my eyes against the outrage, opened my mouth into a tight, flushed circle, and howled. 

Her words were breathless fragments on the perils of dragonflies; too close to your mouth; could have swallowed it; it’s all gone; shhh, you’re okay now. But it was leaving, not coming, wings folded tight against its thorax as it crawled from the close, wet cavern of my mouth. I would never have swallowed it, but how could I have conveyed that with only a cooing gurgle in place of language? 

Each time my mother struck the dragonflies away, newly crawled from my lips, the aura connecting my terrestrial form to my ravenous true self would strain to shattering. The loss and hunger were intolerable. I learned to turn my head from her, feigning interest in a blade of grass, and release them without her flailing dance of maternal fear. They learned to skim the lawn toward open space. They consume, and I am sated by the pursuit, the capture, the trophy feast. 

None would believe it possible for a girl like me to birth exquisite predators from a sugary, rosebud smile. Outside, an earthbound child with sky-blue eyes and soft, springy curls. Inside, translucent, filigreed wings, multifaceted eyes, aquatic, carnivorous. Together, this duality became the essence of my being. 

Today, there is much comfort and little danger in my endeavors. My husband did not question making our home near the marsh. In the evenings, I stand barefoot in the grass with my lips parted toward the water, relishing each set of six prickly legs as they cross my tongue to hungry freedom. They gorge on mosquitoes and butterflies, a glut that cupcakes and roast beef cannot satisfy. Mosquitos: a bloody morsel. Butterflies: how thrilling to make a meal of such gentle beauty. Although my winged selves carry their instincts far from my lips, I feel the wind of their flight on my skin. We are tiny, insatiable, and shimmering. 

Listen to me reading Dragonflies for Tahoma Literary Review. I’m #3.

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