by Thomas Davis
She looked at all the red-eyed dragonflies
That hovered on the water of the pond.
Inside the small stone house, just ten years old,
But feeling like she’d lived at least two lifetimes,
She wondered how the dragonflies perceived
Her hugeness when she walked out to the pond
And stared at them, their gauze-like wings and bodies
As red as eyes that bugged out at the day.
Above her on the mountain peaks, in caves
That joined to caves through tunnels dug by dragons,
As large compared to her as she was when
She stood above the darting dragonflies,
The daily noise of dragonkind was echoing
Down rocky slopes, off cliffs too high for humans.
She wondered, looking at the dragonflies,
What she would feel if, suddenly, she grew
A dragon’s leathery wings and felt the power
The dragons felt when spewing streams of fire.
She did not look behind her where her mother
Was stiff in death, her aging face now smoothed
Of wrinkles wrought by weeks of endless pain
As life ebbed from her as she fought to keep
Herself alive so that her only daughter
Would not be left alone upon the mountain.
At last the young girl sighed. She had her chores:
She had to dig a shallow grave and find
Round stones to place upon her mother’s body.
She’d cried all day until the storm had left,
And now, inside a weariness that seemed
As heavy as the stones she’d have to find,
She had to face what was and nurse her courage.
She thought, this mountain’s home. I’m staying here.
Above the house a golden dragon drove
Its heavy wings through heavy summer air.
A rumbling echoed off the rocks and cliffs
That soared forever up into the sky.
The villagers, who lived a dozen miles away
Inside a wall of circled black, round stones,
Were terrified each time a dragon passed
Above their heads, its wing beats making thunder,
But she had always lived below the caves
And heard their moving, eating, talking noises
As they lived life the way her mother, she
Lived life, joy bubbling out of mountain stones.
Her mother would not weigh too much. Not now.
The stones she found would be much heavier.
She turned away from dragonflies and, careful
To keep her eyes away from where her mother
Looked up toward the dark stone ceiling’s thatch,
Went through the doorway’s arch outside. The chill
That night would bring was still two hours away.
She’d manage living on the mountainside,
She told herself. She’d learned her mother’s skills
At gardening and hunting game too small
For dragon’s bellies or their long, black claws.
She had a woman’s heart in spite of being young.
She went down to the shed she’d used for play
And got their spading shovel off the wall.
What should she do? She asked herself. The stones
Or digging first? She left the shed’s cold dimness
And walked down to a mound above the pool.
She wasn’t weak, she thought. She forced the blade
Into the rich, dark, mountain earth and watched
A worm slide out of sight into the ground.
She fought the tiredness in her spirit, lifted
The soil from the tiny indentation
And dug again, the rhythm of the work
A balm to memory, the single gasp
She’d heard her mother make as all her breath
Exhaled into a world she’d left unwillingly.
Night came too soon. Above her head a dragon
Flew overhead and circled, watching her.
She didn’t look at it, but kept on digging.
A moon as large as dragon fire rose red
Above the jagged peaks around the cottage.
She’d have to gather stones tomorrow morning,
She told herself. She looked back at the cottage.
In mountain air she couldn’t sleep outside,
Away from where her mother’s eyes stared sightlessly.
Do what you have to do, she told herself.
You’ll live through this. Do what you have to do.
Note: This is the beginning of a poem too long to publish on wordpress. The story was inspired by John Keats’ tale in his narrative poem, Lamia, although this poem uses blank verse rather than the rhyming couplets Keats used. To go to the next section of the epic, click on 2.
Ben Naga asked me to do an audio of the poems I have not yet put in place. I’m not sure that that is important this late in publishing the epic, but this is the audio for the first installment of the dragon epic: Dragonflies, Dragons, and Her Mother’s Death.