I can’t recall my exact location
the night a red dragonfly
came through the window of my car

to settle on my arm.
The heart has selective memory,
and all coordinates and compass points

are more than it can manage
when it breaks, but I do remember
low-slung globes of cloud,

the kind my father insisted
were faithful predictors
of lightning and large, disfigured stones

of hail he called Chimney Fish
on account of the dark crosshatching
on the surface, the tapering shape and fins of ice.

As the dragonfly held fast to the hairs on my arm
with its fuse-wire legs,
I thought of small aircraft awaiting clearance

for take-off, and this, by extension,
led to migratory birds on a flyway
after leaving winter in Siberia:

the red-necked stint,
eastern curlew and whimbrel
who lose more than half their body weight

prior to touching down.
The dragonfly’s wings were shimmering.
I’d like to say they were lit

by neon stacked over the street
where I had parked outside a restaurant.
I’d like to say its arrival

was intentional, a messenger
with good news, not just an insect
that had blown in through a window.

My research suggests its name
is red-veined darter of the order Odonata,
whose appearance has been known

to coincide with unusual
solar flare activity and times of personal loss.
Thunder was turning over

its inboard engines, and the sky
was throwing the switch to light its dark towers.
Did the rain turn to hail

and carpet the road?
Did the darter make a sound like sifting,
as when fine sand

is poured from palm to palm,
or when long hair is combed, repeatedly,
with tines of tortoiseshell?

Anthony Lawrence’s most recent book of poems is Ordinary Time, (Pitt Street Poetry) a collaboration with Irish Australian poet Audrey Molloy. His books and individual poems have won a number of awards, including the Prime Ministers Literary Award for Poetry, the Queensland and New South Wales Premiers Awards, the Peter Porter Poetry Prize and the Blake Poetry Prize. A new collection: What the Field Guide Saw Outside the Field: Poems 2017–2024 is due for publication with Pitt Street Poetry in early 2024. He is a senior lecturer at Griffith university, where he teaches Creative Writing, and he lives with his Dingo/Kelpie dog Benny on Moreton Bay.