Odonata Prayer
by Cheryl Stiles

Weedy, riotous now with frogs,
overrun with bracken ferns,
my father's pond once stocked
trout and brim. Now
loud-winged dragonflies
are everywhere -- skimming,
perching on smooth rocks,
flying in tandem.

Treetop emerald. Swift Setwing. Stream Cruiser.

This morning
I circle the small pond,
its rim shrunk to less than half
its original size. With each slow step
on new-mown grass,
I still mourn his death.

Yellow-legged Meadowhawk.
Appalachian Snaketail.
Calico Penant.

A cool Carolina mountain stream
still feeds this pond,
though barely. Most branches
flow elsewhere. No caretaker to call
or curl them toward
a standing destination.

Swamp Darner. Slaty Blue Skimmer.
Cinnamon Shadowdragon.

My father -- water-keeper, pondmaker --
fashioned this work
before his liver failed him.
So edemic in his last month,
he traveled to the hospital
every few days to have the fluids drained.

Black-water Clubtail.
Blue-faced Meadowhawk. Widow Skimmer.

I dreamed of water everywhere,
water overflowing -- a bathtub
that would not drain,
and storms coming. Rain breaking
through our basement windows,
flooding the concrete floors, rising
and rising up the wooden stairs.

Faun Darner. Lancet Clubtail.
Royal River Cruiser.

I could not stop his dying
or bear to be there for it.
Just as I cannot stop
what evaporates or passes away.
I cannot stop
my prayers for forgiveness.

Eastern Amberwing. Painted Skimmer. Wandering Glider.

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