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Vol. 42 No. 8 · 16 April 2020
Poem

Mayfly

(Ephemera danica)

Fiona Benson

254 words

Subimago

Tomorrow’s dancer
     on the water’s
            sticky lip

hurrying out
      of her husk –
            a lush fluttering

as she struggles
      into late noon light,
            breaking all the knots

untangling
      from her own lost corpse,
            its five point shadow,

escaping into air
      taking refuge
            in the willow.

Not death,
      her shed skin
            carried by the river,

not the shroud
      of Turin, despite
            its hollow cockpit

of a face
      its warped and eyeless goggles,
            but ephemera, exuvia,

an unzipped dress
      of almost-there silk,
            wet tissue

shed instar after instar –
      tomorrow she will come
            to the luminous core –

and dance with the others
      in fluid spires,
            today she rests.

Imago

if I spin for you –
      sun-glazed, glacéd,
            swallow-tailed –

if I spin through shining air
      after years of working the dirt
            grovelling in mud

endlessly bursting
      my shellacked seams –
            slough upon slough

of my own dun skin –
      if I spin, like a bobbin streaming
            threading the updraft

swollen, iridescent, reeling,
      spin then fall,
            sailing on my own split tail

to reel again
      a flare against the sun –
            come you, will you come?

Who said ecstasy
      must be prolonged?
            This is the sweet moment,

this is the high note;
      if I spin for you
            will you come?

Spent

Her body’s empty purse
      and draggled strings
            returned

after its several transactions
      with the river,
            her abdomen dipped

to the surface of the water
      mid-flight, quick
            as if it burned;

the water takes
      her rushed deposits,
            the little gold that glitters, sifts

through cooling depths
      and in the sediment
            may hold,

may hatch, may crawl,
      may feed, may fly;
            what survives is code.

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