Centaur Street demoiselle

Meeting a banded demoiselle
Calopteryx splendens
at Centaur Street

five seconds
fierce sprite
19th century brick railway arches, buddleia and brambles from ledges,
old Eurostar concrete squared-off tunnels, stained by rain,
the odd siren or train klaxon,
and me moving through the heavily-breathed London air again.

I’m stepping up the kerb at the battered entrance to the now closed Buddhist centre,
derelict land to the left, the tunnel ahead, my head slightly lowered,
walking-home-from-work thinking, but not entirely wrapped;
nevertheless, undoubtedly some way away on hillsides, maybe in other winds,
or perhaps with Blake passing by a couple of centuries back.

It’s a tea-time in early July two thousand and ten, on the way to Waterloo station.
I lift my left foot:
then the movement of a moment grabs first my eyes, then my arm waves and I follow,
half-pointing for the absent companion:
it flicks light at me and in a short instant I know it for the sprite that it is:
Demoiselle deep irridescent blue, long wings seemingly struggling,
it changes course this way, that, then around a tow truck by the kerb.

I pursue, circling, how did you get here?  How did you end up here?
It looks a little weak, though damsel flight can be of this kind – jumpy,
contingent on gusts and eddies lost to our senses five.

Where are you going?
This is no downland stream, there is no clear water here nor anywhere near,
just my old pond, the brown Thames.
Where are you going?
But it is a fierce delicacy that damsels have, they are sharp-eyed faeries,
insistent predators
and this one now powers around and back into the corner of the archbishop’s park,
leaving me by the truck looking through diesel greyness for the lost creature.

For it is lost, likely lost, overwhelmed by bigger things, the city, constructions.
And even now I feel the trembling of the heart, the breaks in my breathing,
as I looked on after it, this rarity of five seconds, by the arches near Waterloo.

© David Perkins 2012


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