The Vanity of the Dragonfly

By Nancy Willard b. 1936 Nancy Willard
The dragonfly at rest on the doorbell—
too weak to ring and glad of it,
but well mannered and cautious,
thinking it best to observe us quietly
before flying in, and who knows if he will find
the way out? Cautious of traps, this one.
A winged cross, plain, the body straight
as a thermometer, the old glass kind
that could kill us with mercury if our teeth
did not respect its brittle body. Slim as an eel
but a solitary glider, a pilot without bombs
or weapons, and wings clear and small as a wish
to see over our heads, to see the whole picture.
And when our gaze grazes over it and moves on,
the dragonfly changes its clothes,
sheds its old skin, shriveled like laundry,
and steps forth, polished black, with two
circles buttoned like epaulettes taking the last space
at the edge of its eyes.

Poem copyright ©2012 by Nancy Willard from her most recent book of poems, The Sea at Truro, Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. Poem reprinted by permission of Nancy Willard and the publisher.

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Poet Nancy Willard b. 1936

Biography

Nancy Willard is the award-winning, versatile author of dozens of volumes of children's fiction and poetry, as well as novels, poetry, short stories, and literary criticism for adults. The first recipient of a Newbery Medal for a volume of poetry, Willard mingles the "magical and the mundane" in a technique that "requires a leap of faith on the part of the reader," according to Sybil Steinberg in a Publishers Weekly interview . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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