4. Dreams of Fire

by Thomas Davis

Wei sat inside the cottage by the fire
And wove light strands into a radiant web
That glinted firelight back toward the flames.
The web threw light into the darkest corners
And made the cottage seem as if its warmth
Was filled with friendly spirits as the wind
Blew sleet and snow against the walls and roof
And seemed intent on battering its way
Into the small, safe place that Wei called home.

At last she let the strands of light go dark
And got up from the floor and walked to look
Outside into the storm’s cold, deadly fury.
She thought about her mother’s face before
Her sickness took away her strength and left
Her pale and weary in her single bed:
Her pale green eyes had always danced with light,
Her smile so bright it banished little hurts
That little girls could always seem to find;
In storms her eyes would grow intense, alive
To clouds that sailed with lightning, dragging fire
Beneath their rumbling through a winter’s skies.
Wei sighed and shivered. Frost had caked the window
And only left a small round hole to see
The wind ghosts walking just above dark ground,
Their fleeing emblematic of Wei’s life
Now that her mother was inside her grave.

Wei’s loneliness was sharp enough to burn
Into her flesh, her sadness like a mask.
She thought about the moment by the grave
When numbness made her silence all encompassing,
Her heartbeat stilled to nothingness.

She’d thought about the humans in the village,
Considered walking down the mountainside
And telling them she was a lonesome child
And not a fearsome witch birthed by a witch,
But then she’d felt the mountain stir its rock
And touch her spirit with a spirit old
As water splashing over mountain stones.
I won’t need them, she’d thought. They’d chase me off
And treat me like the deer their arrows kill.

But by the window, looking out at winter,
She felt herself begin to shake, not from the cold,
But from the loneliness she’d felt each day
Since she had been alone, her mother gone.
She thought about the dragons in their caves,
The way they lived their lives together, bound
By memories and happenings that flowed
Into their flights above the cottage, sang
Into their daily voices as they linked
The way each dragon was into community.

She dreamed while standing by the windowpane
About a golden dragon looking fiercely
Into her eyes and saying, “Yes, you’ll do.
The elders won’t object to how you’ve grown.”
And then she felt herself spread wings of light,
Made of the light she’d strung into a web
Beside the cottage fire, and lift into the air.
She saw the cottage below her as she flew
Toward the human village in a rage of joy.

The vision faded. She shivered, turned away
From wind that howled at wind ghosts in the storm,
And went back by the fire that needed wood
She’d split if death was not to be a guest
That visited with tendrils exquisite with frost.
She felt the dullness of her hunger burn
Beneath the burning of her loneliness.

“I’ll be a dragon.” In her voice she sounded sure.
She looked at arms too thin as food had dwindled
And rabbits had become aware that she
Was not as skilled at calling them to her
As when her mother did the winter calling.
She wondered if she’d ever feel alive
With happiness the way she’d felt before.
She settled by the fire and watched the flames.

Note: This is the fourth section of a long poem I have been skeptical about publishing in wordpress format, but have been encouraged to do so. 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. Click on the numbers to read earlier sections: 1, 2, 3, 5.

18 Comments

Filed under Poetry, The Dragon Epic, Thomas Davis

18 responses to “4. Dreams of Fire

  1. The story reads well and I’m waiting for the outcome of wei and her dragon world.

  2. Oona Hays

    I love this poem. I am so intrigued by the story. The words you use create such a crystal clear image in my mind.

  3. Thomas, each section of this poem about the girl living alone under the dragon’s cave gets better and better. You have me totally hooked in the dragon’s claws, flying high, visions upon visions fleeing past me.

  4. Such words, such visions real beauty I really do love this story. xx

  5. More and more, please! I’m eager to find out what happens to Wei. (You hold us in suspense – good sign of a spell-binding story!)

  6. Caddo Veil

    Easy to get drawn into this! I’d love to know some of the author’s back story on it–like what you were thinking about as it began to emerge, what the process was like, etc. That kind of thing intrigues me when I read the good writers here at WP.
    By the way, thanks so much for your recent comments. It was killing me to wait for you to read my Sonnet I, and say something–I so wanted to come over here and ask you to “grade” it for me, as I hoped and prayed it was half as good as the ones you write, which is why I was challenged/determined to write one. But you’re correct–they’re not easy to do; not sure I could do as well next time–but this one came out fairly effortlessly, probably due to the reality of the experience (I didn’t have to invent anything).
    God bless you and Ethel and the family!

  7. Julie Catherine

    Ahhhh, my day is now complete … until the next part …

  8. Anna Mark

    Beautiful…I can’t wait for this girl to meet her dragon. And I love this line:
    The wind ghosts walking just above dark ground,
    Their fleeing emblematic of Wei’s life
    Now that her mother was inside her grave.
    …and her loneliness and the cold…and her skinny arms…but, I see her as so strong and wise, like the stones and the dragons.

  9. The villagers and the dragons fustrate me. They’re leaving her alone all winter! The dragon had better do something soon, I don’t think Wei will last for another month or so.

  10. awesome story telling…i was spellbound from first to last line…great job also in making us feel her emotions…loved it

  11. Another great instalment! Judging from the great response here, I see I was not alone in encouraging you to continue posting the dragon tales! Good you provided the links as well. I feel for Wei and look forward to seeing what happens next!

  12. Thanks for the help, Christy. I tried to follow your advice. I seem to be committed to publishing this in wordpress now, although, for some reason, I still feel a little awkward going forward. Your suggestions really help, but wordpress still seems to me a format designed to showcase shorter works. Those following Wei seem to be getting involved, but comments and likes are down compared to some our shorter work. Yet, I am glad and grateful to have all the readers that have been commenting. I’ve published some during my lifetime, but this is the first time I’ve felt connected to readers and other poets. I cannot express how important that feels to both Ethel and I.

    • Yes Thomas the connected feeling is one of my favourite parts of blogging. Being able to express ideas to others and hearing their opinions is wonderful. I’m so glad I have found your blog, and you and Ethel.

  13. Impressive energy in telling about loss and growing up/surviving. And the dreamy, surreal working through so well captured, and at length without tiering, it draws on fire. Whatever the source, it is ment to grow further.
    Thank you.

  14. It’s very interesting to read this, Tom, and like other readers I started with section 1 and worked through. Of course it reminds me of your epic An American Spirit which you kindly shared with me and which I also greatly enjoyed.
    You’ve set me thinking about the form of the epic narrative poem. It takes its place between lyric poems and short stories or novels. It contains lines of intensity, as in the short poem (I was immediately struck by this as I read the opening couple of stanzas in your first section – take, for example, the way you draw comparisons between dragon fly and dragon, between ‘death’ of the larva into chrysalis and human death, and play with the differences of scale from dragon fly to girl to dragon – great stuff this!).
    Essentially however you are concerned here with telling a story, and a gripping story with a magical or fairy-tale quality to it. You have a vivid story-telling imagination, and I wonder whether you write much fiction in prose form. At the very least you must have made up some fine stories to tell to children!

    • John, thanks for this. I will forever be in your debt for reading An American Epic, although I think it is too much of a slog. I wish I had done better, but having a reader as poetically intelligent as you are is deep gift. As for this new long poem (maybe epic–it keeps getting longer), we’ll see how it goes. I have learned a thing or two about storytelling since I wrote an American Spirit. I have written a couple of novels. Salt Bear can be found on amazon.com, although it is only available for the kindle. A newer work is Inside the Blowholes, a part of the dragon poems of which this long poem is a part. I also wrote a novel called The Alkali Cliffs a long time ago, but these days it’s only available on my computer. I’ve published a bit of fiction, but more poetry and more scholarly stuff. Thanks so much for commenting, and, even more, thanks for publishing your poetry on wordpress. It gives me great inspiration and pleasure. Tom

  15. An enthralling and mystical narrative poem, Thomas.

  16. An epic epic. I admire your ability Thomas.

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