13. The Substance of Light

by Thomas Davis

The frost upon the window melted, Wei
Stared out at evening skies and watched as dragons
Launched flight from caves in numbers greater than
She’d ever seen before, their colored scales
Dramatic in the sunset’s streaming fires.
She wondered what was wrong. They all seemed stressed,
As if they had to flee their underground.
She watched to see the golden dragon’s scales,
But if she flew, she flew outside Wei’s sight.
She watched until the shadows brought the night,
Then went to sit beside the fireplace fire.

In front of warmth brought by the cheerful flames
She felt half dazed, as if the day’s events
Had been too much, and now she wanted rest.
She looked down at her fingers, made a bar
Of light stream out into the darkness, held
It in the air until it looked as if
It was a substance rather than a stream of light.
She smiled, then stopped the motion made to make
The light. The light fell down and clinked on stone.
Her mind was suddenly awake; a chill
Made hair behind her neck stand up and tremble.
The bar was fading on the floor, the light
Bleached out, its substance round and strangely long,
As if its substance was not made on earth.

She put her legs beneath her, stretched her hand
Toward the substance made from light she’d made,
And gingerly, as if it might be hot,
Touched light congealed into a strange, long rod.
The rod was warm and seemed to still contain
A memory of light that it had been.
She sat back, saw the golden dragon’s eyes
Stare as it flew so close above her head.
She felt the darkness shift, as if her time
Was not the time where she was at inside
The cottage built below the dragon caves.

She made another stream of steady light
And welded it into the rod she’d made,
And then she made another rod until
She had a rabbit cage designed to capture
The meal she had not had for much too long.

She looked toward her mother’s empty bed
And saw her mother faintly in the dark.
Behind her mother, coaching her, his hands
So large they seemed as if they had the strength
To hold the world, her father, dead so long
She only had the vaguest memory
Of what his face had looked like during life,
Was pantomiming every move her mother
Was making as she sent the moves to Wei.

Wei gasped. Her mother looked into her eyes,
Smiled sadly, let the dark intensify,
And left the room to emptiness and night.
Wei felt as if she’d never move again.
She glanced toward the rabbit trap she’d made.
Her mother, from her grave, had made her daughter
As powerful a witch as ever lived.
She felt the song she’d sing to bring the rabbits
To where they’d find themselves inside her trap.

She felt so restless that she rose and walked
To where the window looked into the night.
Outside she saw the flames of dragon breath
Light up the darkness like the fireflies did
On summer nights. A dragon knew no fear.
Their largeness dwarfed the strength that humans had.
What madness made them fireflies in the dark?

She moved her hands, her eyes intent on where
She’d seen her father and her mother’s forms.
She concentrated on the golden dragon’s scales
And let her fingers shoot light through the air.
A golden scale, as hard as iron, suspended air,
Burned with a light so bright it blinded Wei.
She brought the scale onto her arm, singed flesh,
The smell and pain tears running down her face.
She felt so strange she thought she heard the stars
Sing songs of dragon fire into the night.
Her tingling arm felt like it was not her,
But separate, more dragon than a girl.

The light stopped flowing, made her gasp;
She slumped down to the floor, her consciousness
A dream she’d conjured from her mother’s grave.

Audio of The Substance of LightVN800015

Note: This is the thirteenth installment of a long poem. Inspired by John Keats’ long narrative poem, Lamia, it tells a story set in ancient times when dragons and humans were at peace. Click on the numbers below to reach other sections, or go to the Categories box to the right under The Dragon Epic. Click on 1 to go to the beginning and read forward. Go to 12 to read the section before this one. Go to 14 to read the next section.

16 Comments

Filed under Poetry, The Dragon Epic, Thomas Davis

16 responses to “13. The Substance of Light

  1. Thomas, I’m enthralled with this so much so I’m not sure I ever want this piece to end.I wanted to share with you my favorite part in this new installment ……Though your command of the written word is unmatched by most I’ve read
    Your language in this passage stirs me to the point of weeping. So exquisite is the phrasing !
    She felt so strange she thought she heard the stars
    Sing songs of dragon fire into the night.
    Her tingling arm felt like it was not her,
    But separate, more dragon than a girl.

  2. Thomas, you had me quite literally on the edge of my desk chair, with my nose almost touching the screen and getting singed from Wei’s light bar! That is how successful and compelling this post is for me! I am SO hooked on your witch’s girl narrative poem!

  3. belladonna23

    so amazing… so grippig. The hands down best I’ve read in a long while

  4. Anna Mark

    I’ve been waiting patiently for this line: more dragon than a girl.
    And these: She felt the darkness shift…let the darkness intensify…
    What will transform next?

  5. Such an epic tale Thomas! The rabbit cage of light is so inspired, I loved making that image appear in my mind. 😀

  6. An epic tale in blank verse, musical, mystical alliteration & rhythm, a star sprinkled ride on your imagination. Have been reading each installment, not always commenting but certainly following. Thank you…

  7. Thomas, your story just keeps going deeper and deeper into the world of myth, mystery, and magic, and I love it! As Wei and the dragons begin to entertwine in their thoughts, I’m spellbound – and looking forward to more and more. “The substance of light” – I love the very idea of this!!

  8. Caddo Veil

    This is so beautiful, Thomas–and deeply moving; I’m not sure if I’m reading sadness into it, or if you mean for it to be there, and recognized. Hoping you have a good weekend–God bless you and Ethel. love, Caddo

  9. Julie Catherine

    Thomas, there isn’t much I can add to what’s already been said here … your epic is just so compelling – whenever I see an update for this in my email, my heart leaps with anticipation. The audio version sends my spine tingling; absolutely fabulous! ~ Julie xox

  10. This wonderful narrative continues…I usually try to set aside time when I get read it with my full attention…though I don’t like to analyze it too much…but drink in its atmosphere and drama and mystery.

    I loved this line, one among many: ‘She felt so strange she thought she heard the stars’

  11. I continue to love being drawn into Wei’s world, and wait impatiently for the next episode. It’s good to read several at a time though, so I get torn . 🙂

    By the way; have I come across a typo? In the stanza

    “She felt so restless that she rose and walked
    To where the window looked into the night.
    Outside the saw the flames of dragon breath
    Light up the darkness like the fireflies did
    On summer nights. A dragon knew no fear.
    Their largeness dwarfed the strength that humans had.
    What madness made them fireflies in the dark?”

    should the third line read “Outside she saw the flames of dragon breath” rather than “Outside the saw the flames of dragon breath”?

    And will there be audio for the first five sections at some point?

    Thanks again for writing and publishing this wonderful story.

  12. Ben, thank you, thank you for finding the typo. I miss one way too often, and I hate that. I can do an audio for the first five sections if you think it is worth doing. I need a new battery currently and will have to get one this weekend. Currently there are not a lot of comments, so I’ve been wondering about the wisdom of posting it on wordpress again, but have decided that since there are some loyal readers I owe it to them to finish it. I am still writing, although I’m ahead of what I posted by a little bit. Do you think I should do more audios? I wish I could figure out how to do an audio in a way that would like readers follow along, but my time is so limited the task is beyond me at the moment. Thanks for pointing out the typo again. I really, really appreciate that.

    • I would hate it if you failed to complete the Dragon Epic, but then as I confess on my e-log I do tend to the anal retentive. 😛 Hence the “missing” audio episode too.

      “I wish I could figure out how to do an audio in a way that would like readers follow along” I’m not quite sure what you mean here. I have no problem listening to the audio playing in the background (I have downloaded it to my pc) while following the text on the screen in front of me.

      As for finishing the remainder of the tale, please don’t feel under any time pressure. The best things are always worth waiting for. 😀

      • Ben, I almost definitely will finish it and post one section a week as I’ve been doing. I’ll try to get to the audio too. I’ve got to remember to buy batteries this weekend. Thanks so much for the encouragement to post this. I’d finish it no matter what. I suspect I’m a bit anal retentive too, although I think you are a wise, wise, man.

      • Simply a barely passable actor, I’m afraid, Thomas

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