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THE BANDED DEMOISELLE

If Ezekiel’s watchman, or, rather, God’s

had been on the job there would have been

some sort of heads-up – a cornet perhaps

if not a fanfare – that the Parish Church clock,

put in place in 1867,

would be chiming again, hours and quarters,

this summer morning. But it just happens –

almost surreptitiously, like some

member of the chorus in an opera

sneaking on late from the wings. And late it is

by a few minutes – as before it was fast.

 

Such churlishness, some would say, is tantamount

to treason – as the Prime Minister

of one of the earth’s richest countries,

though singlehandedly it seems fighting off

phalanxes of invisible foes, finds time

to fly to the Orkneys for a photo-op

with a couple of large crabs on the deck

of a trawler in Kirkwall harbour,

and speak with officer-class passion about

the abstract benefits of the Union –

the English monarchy’s first colonies –

whose strength has helped us through…and will again…

 

As Benjamin Franklin – who chased lightning,

with an iron rod, on a horse – once said, “Tricks

and Treachery are the practice of fools,

that do not have brains enough to be honest”.

And I recall that the name of the church –

built in local sandstone for a burgeoning,

provincial bourgeoisie – is All Saints,

so no bases or bets left uncovered there.

Nevertheless, when I hear the chimes

and watch my live-in gardener – whom

I have loved for nearly sixty years –

building a rockery in assorted stone

with alpines and lavender, there is some sense

of re-setting if not re-winding the clock.

 

Suddenly, out of the purple buddleia –

an import from China, nationalists

should note, that self-seeds particularly well

in ravaged, industrial wastelands –

a dragonfly appears, metallic green,

with fluttering wings, translucent, pale,

and disappears somewhere beyond the hosta

and the agapanthus. I learn, instantly,

it was a female banded demoiselle,

its habitat slow-moving muddy streams.

 

Beneath the garden and the house – a fort

against the dark – was a pond and a brook

speculative builders filled with rubble

more than two decades before the church was built.

That fragile creature of breath-taking beauty,

like a prophetess, divined the lost waters.

 

 

 

© Copyright David Selzer
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2 Responses
  • Clive Watkins
    August 28, 2020

    Thank you for posting this beautifully articulated and capacious poem, David. It conducts us on a journey whose stages are marked by stopping-points both intriguing and touching.

  • Elise Oliver
    August 30, 2020

    This chimes (with apologies for plagiarising Ashen Venema but I couldn’t resist the pun). Our village’s church clock has appropriately been behind the times for as long as I can remember. I have often wondered whether I am the only person to have noticed – or does no-one else really care since, after all, “only when the clock stops does time come to life”.

    I always enjoy your contemporary political nuances and, as a member of the same guild, your references to and appreciation of your long-serving, live-in gardener. Agapanthus is one of my favourite words as well as being a favourite flower.

    Kudos too for your instant classification of the female banded demoiselle – what a lovely name for ”
    ‘the fragile creature pf breath-taking beauty’! I do hope she hasn’t divined too much muddy water running beneath the house.

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